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5 steps to create a school culture supportive of good mental health

Schools cannot eradicate mental health problems in children entirely. What they can do is create an environment that fosters and protects mental wellbeing and encourages resilience in children.

This culture needs to be imbedded throughout the school, from its values and commitment from all school members, to open discussions in the classroom and beyond.

1.   Create supportive school values

Incorporate mental wellbeing and kindness in to your school values. Make these visible throughout the school and gain commitment from all school members, including students, parents and staff.

Ensure mental health can be discussed openly throughout the school, so students know there is no stigma attached to it.

2.   Discuss mental health in the classroom

As well as being an open discussion informally, mental health and wellbeing should form a part of the curriculum. For secondary schools this will take part in PSHE lessons and can also be incorporated in to discussions around sex, general health and relationships.  

3.    Have an anti-bullying charter

Bullying is not the only factor in poor mental health, but it can be a significant contributing factor.

Be clear on what types of behaviours constitute bullying, and that the school won’t tolerate these. Anti-bullying charters work best when students are committed to them, peer pressure can be as effective as adult instruction if not more so.

4.    Professional development

Teachers are not responsible for diagnosing or overcoming mental health problems in their students however should be kept up to date with current advice on how to spot potential problems, and how to foster a protective environment within the classroom.

Make mental wellbeing part of every teacher’s professional development and offer appropriate training.

5.    Offer (and gain) support

Make sure students know where to go when they need support, such as the school’s counselling service.

Strong relationships with outside agencies and the local community are important. This may include talks at the school to raise visibility and awareness, and support if external help is required.

Tell us about the initiatives or steps you’ve taken to help safeguard the children in your school, and how effective have they been?

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