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Schools in Mind resources add value to wellbeing outcomes

Kelly Hannaghan, Wellbeing Leader at Lessness Heath Primary School, explains how joining the Schools in Mind network has safeguarded pupil, staff and family’s mental health and contributed to creating a happy wellbeing culture within education.

In September 2017 I embarked upon a project to embed wellbeing through a whole school community that included measuring and monitoring the wellbeing and mental health of all stakeholders within 3-form entry primary schools. My passion and belief systems are, “if we are unable to meet the emotional needs of the pupils that walk through our school gates each day, how can we expect these children to attain in what can feel like an overwhelming curriculum with high expectations”.

An important part of my journey was to establish links and networks with a reliable child and young people’s mental health service, that could support me in my challenge to create a successful wellbeing culture that threaded through the whole school environment.

My search led me to join the Anna Freud National Centre’s Schools in Mind network. The first Schools in Mind newsletter I received made me realise that their service could offer a wealth of understanding and learning around mental health, not only for the pupils but also with a focus around staff wellbeing, which was high up on my agenda.

The ‘Talking Mental Health’ teacher toolkit and animation has been rolled out to all year groups within Lessness Heath Primary School, and teachers have voiced how helpful they found the lesson plans. One staff member reported that these prescriptive sessions assisted in releasing anxieties around talking about mental health. Teaching staff highlighted that they felt more confident in speaking to pupils with ‘big feelings’ and now have gained the skills and language to facilitate sensitive conversations with pupils. 

The use of the Schools in Mind webpages has provided much needed knowledge around different types of mental health disorders, which has resulted in teaching staff gaining a richer understanding of children’s and young people’s social, emotional and mental health needs.

With the help of the Schools in Mind network and the Talking Mental Health toolkit, we have embedded wellbeing through our whole school community and released the stigma around talking about mental health. We celebrate and advertise these services, within every fabric of our school and disseminate this helpful information within our wellbeing displays, newsletters and school website.

Our pupils feel a sense of connection with the ‘Talking Mental Health’ animation, which is shown regularly within our wellbeing focused assemblies.

Not only have these wonderful resources inspired us to grow in our wellbeing journey, they have also provided both myself and our school’s Head Teacher Kate O’Connor with the amazing opportunity to share our wellbeing story at one of the Schools in Mind network’s ‘Supporting staff wellbeing in schools’ workshops. The Anna Freud Learning Network has also opened many doors, in terms of future research projects with CORC. The power in this support has helped us develop our school’s consultancy business that now self-funds our continued wellbeing strategies. 

In terms of using the Talking Mental Health toolkit in the future, I can only see this adding a huge benefit to all provisions within our trust of eight schools and look forward to rolling this out over the next year, within my role as Wellbeing Associate for the Primary First Trust. 

I give thanks to the Anna Freud National Centre for inspiring us to make a difference to many lives, in education.

You can join the Schools in Mind network for free in order to access lesson and assembly plans and other resources to support mental health and wellbeing in your school. 

We recently launched 'We all have mental health' - an animation and teacher toolkit for secondary schools.