Mental health issues in children are on the increase. With upwards of 800,000 children in the UK now affected by stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, the scale of the problem means that most teachers are directly experiencing the effects of mental illness on a day-to-day basis – but without specialist training, many feel unsure about how to offer the right support.
Here are some proactive steps that schools can take to promote mental wellbeing in all pupils, and to help improve mental health in children.
As if it weren’t bad enough to suffer with mental illness, the stigma that still surrounds mental health can make it difficult for children to get the help they need. Stigma around other issues, like sexuality, can also lead to mental health issues when children feel they can’t open up or be their true selves.
To reduce stigma and help young people to be comfortable in their own skin, schools can play their part in breaking down barriers and creating an open and accepting community environment. By naturally incorporating conversations about different religions, sexualities and cultures into everyday lessons, schools can aim to make all children feel accepted, regardless of background.
Good physical health can have a positive effect on mental health, and regular exercise helps to promote self-esteem, reduce stress and improve quality of life. Spending time outdoors in a natural environment can also increase feelings of mental wellbeing. Mindful of these benefits, schools can incorporate both movement and outdoor learning into the timetable, scheduling in regular activity sessions and using outdoor classrooms for an enriched learning experience.
You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and diet can have a significant effect on mental wellbeing. A healthy diet can reduce mood swings, aid concentration and focus, and help children manage any existing mental health issues. By providing balanced and nutritious school meals, schools can help ensure that children are getting a good intake of all the vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and other essentials that can benefit their mental health.
For children experiencing problems in their home life, school is often their ‘safe space’, where they feel secure. It’s crucial for schools to recognise this and ensure that all pupils are happy at school, by taking measures to tackle bullying, and fostering a community where everyone feels accepted and respected.
Some children, especially those going through difficult experiences such as bereavement, or the break-up of a family, need some time out from the classroom. Providing a dedicated therapy room can give young people the space they need to process what they are going through, and talk in a quiet and private setting.
For children with conditions like autism, and others with behavioural issues, a sensory room is a great place to chill out and retreat to.
MAKE SPACE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
To find out more about building an outdoor classroom or therapy room in your school, see our range of modular school buildings.