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Champion mental health in your community

This World Mental Health Day we’re asking schools and the wider community to champion mental health.

Today the government published the first ever State of the Nation report on children’s mental wellbeing. It highlights the importance of the community, in which our children live and study, in determining their potential to achieve happiness. The findings remind us that we all have a part to play in promoting good mental health.

Just like physical health – we all have mental health. We need to make talking about our mental health a normal part of life. By talking openly about mental health in your school or in your community you will ensure children and young people feel able to ask for help when they’re struggling.

We know that half of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders begin by the age of 14. This means that early intervention is key. Ensuring that mental health is prioritised throughout your whole school community is the first step to  children and young people getting the help they need when they need it.

Schools in Mind
Staff working in schools know their pupils really well, they see them every day, therefore they are well placed to recognise when a child is struggling. Increasingly schools are being asked to meet the mental health needs of their pupils. Teachers are already working hard to support their pupils to reach their full potential – we don’t want them to feel like they need to be mental health professionals as well – that is why the Schools in Mind network was developed. Schools in Mind gives anyone working in education free access to advice and guidance from child mental health experts, evidence-based resources, training and research to help support the mental health of the whole school community.  

Use our resources
We’re asking Primary and Secondary schools to use our animations and teacher toolkits – including assembly and lesson plans, and classroom activities – on World Mental Health Day. We want to give children accessible language to talk about mental health and make sure they know how to get support when they need it. Any conversations that start in the classroom need to continue at home and we have resources to help parents and carers of Primary and Secondary school aged children to talk to them about mental health in a simple and accessible way.

In order to support children’s wellbeing we must start with how we support our teachers and senior leaders. Teaching is a tough job. It can be immensely rewarding but also physically and emotionally draining.

We must do more to ensure that the mental health and wellbeing of school staff is prioritised. If we don’t recognise the importance of this we will fail not only the staff, but the children and young people they support. We have resources on Supporting staff wellbeing in schools and Ten steps towards school staff wellbeing.

The Link Programme
The Anna Freud Centre currently reaches over 1 million children through our work with schools. Over the next 4 years, we will be working with every school and college in England through the Link Programme.

Coordinated by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), it brings together education and mental health services to support them to work in a more joined up way in order to meet the mental health needs of children and young people. The link Programme extends beyond schools into the wider community by including a wide range of professionals and stakeholders to ensure that everyone is involved in supporting the mental health of children and young people in their community. 

Never before has there been so many opportunities to act early to address children and young people’s mental health – both in schools and in the wider community. Join us by signing up to the Schools in Mind network and by using our free resources designed specifically for school staff.

Jaime Smith is Director of the Anna Freud Centre’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools Programme.