Mental Health at School- can we be doing more?
We all have experienced periods of stress at school and have all got our own ways of dealing with it. It should never stop us from trying to achieve our goals and actually enjoy our school life. So, are schools really beginning to take note of this? I have recently come across some intriguing articles that have got me thinking.
One teacher based in America created a wonderfully colourful ‘check in’ chart for her students. Each section of the chart has various phrases from ‘I’m great’ to ‘I’m not doing great’ and students are to place a post-it note in the area they associate with at the time. She uses this as a weekly check in on her students every Monday and has a chat about their past week. I thought this was a wonderful idea from this truly forward-thinking teacher. So why can’t we take note of our American brothers and sisters? I have adopted a similar (but not as wonderful) chart at the Academy. I then realised that students are often reluctant to talk about their feelings, but I want to try and change this. I have placed the chart in my office as I understand that it’s best to give some privacy to students who wish to talk about their day. I’m hoping that once they have spoken to someone about their issues or worries, they’ll feel confident enough to settle down to some learning. I am really hoping to incorporate this in the new academic term.
Another intriguing article has got me thinking about how schools deal with discipline, particularly on punishments such as detention. Is this really helping? One elementary school in Baltimore, USA has teamed up with the Holistic Life Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the US which provides health programs such as yoga and mindfulness. Together, they have set up a ‘Mindful Moment’ programme for disruptive children. The programme teaches the children to ‘wind down and reflect’, as well as focus on their breathing in times of stress. Children having a difficult time are sent to the ‘Mindful Moment’ room where trained staff are there to help. They can also choose to go themselves at any time. Specialists spend around 5 minutes in a targeted discussion with the child and then a further 15 minutes going through mindfulness exercises. The programme is helping children to overcome any trauma they may have or are going through. It teaches them to be aware of it but enables them to release it. It seems that the programme goes so far as to affect their home life in a positive way too, as children are teaching their parents how to ‘breathe out’ their stress and tensions’. Local schools in surrounding areas who have also adopted the programme have seen a decrease in suspension rates and an increase in attendance.
At school, writing poetry helped me to cope with my worries and stresses; it was an escapism, as there was no real place to be calm at school. I felt like the teachers were too busy to hear my worries. I think having a creative hobby also helps. Keeping a journal may be beneficial. One can write all their worries and thoughts down and leave them there.
I am hoping that schools take note and invest more of their time into mental health and well being strategies and support for their students, as I feel this is vital in a young person’s life. School should be a safe haven, not somewhere they dread going!