What is mental health and wellbeing?
We all have mental health just as we all have physical health, and we need to take care of it in order to function at our best and prevent ill-health. Good mental health is about experiencing positive psychological and emotional well-being. When you feel good mentally, you feel much more able to achieve your goals and enjoy life.
Good mental health builds resilience, and if you are feeling more resilient, you’re able to cope better with what life throws at you!
We can all experience times when we feel less able to deal with daily stresses and more stressful situations, or find it difficult to manage how we think, feel and act. This is a normal part of functioning as a human being. It is when we frequently find the ways we’re thinking, feeling or reacting difficult, or even impossible to cope with that this becomes a mental health problem, and even a mental illness. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.
Mental health problems are health conditions that are characterised by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour, but good mental health is more than simply the absence of these difficulties.
Building Mind Health
Taking time to plan a few simple ways to build your own mental wellbeing (in the same way that you would build your physical health proactively), and helping your child to do the same can make a big difference to how you feel and function. These include:
- Meeting your essential needs such as getting enough rest and sleep;
- Making time for yourself;
- Connecting with family and friends;
- Getting to know who you are underneath all the daily busyness, and doing things that make you happy;
- Encouraging a positive outlook in yourself and others, try to avoid over thinking and comparisons with others – learn to balance and accept what you can and cannot change about yourself and the world around you;
- Practising gratitude and taking time to notice and appreciate the good things in your day and in your life;
- Exercising regularly;
- Limiting your intake of alcohol, sugar, cigarettes and other drugs
Top Tips for you and your child
Meeting your physical and mind health needs
We all have basic needs that enable us to feel ‘OK’. When these needs are not met, our health, our relationships, our learning and growth, our confidence, our effectiveness and our resilience can suffer.
It is important to work out what your own basic needs are as well as your children’s needs, so you can help yourself and your child start each day feeling replenished and ready for the day ahead.
Without having our basic needs met, we can find it difficult to function emotionally, socially and intellectually. Doubts, fears and worries can creep in which can become our thinking patterns because we don’t feel able to do the things we want or need to do.
When we’re not meeting our needs in the way we need to and instead start meeting them in unhelpful ways, (e.g. not getting the sleep we need and therefore we don’t have enough energy for the day so we reach for sugary snacks and drinks to give us the energy we need, or we haven’t had the alone time we need to recharge and so we are feeling overstimulated at school / work and fearful of failing in front of people so we become anxious and avoid a situation), this is when unhelpful habits and thinking patterns can creep into our life.
Make a list of your basic needs and get clear on the specifics for each one. We all need sleep, food and drink but what and how much and when?
We all have other needs that get us to feeling OK too – not fabulous, just to ‘OK’ and able to function. These might include exercise, being creative, walking your dog, spending time with your partner etc, without these you would not feel OK. Again, write down what these are, how often you need them and when.
Why not make a family poster for everyone’s basic needs in your family and stick it to your fridge door? You can all support each other in making sure everyone’s basic needs are met?
Keeping a diary of the changes you notice in yourself and in your family can help you to see the difference and notice positive changes!
Act on Warning Signs
You know your child better than anybody else. It’s important to act on the warning signs if you start to feel concerned!
- Look out for a change in things like sleeping or eating habits or in their mood
- Communicate with your child if you’ve seen these signs
- Keep talking to your child even if it feels like you’re not getting through to them, and communicate in any way you can – hugging them, listening to them, texting them to keep the communication channel open. See Talking to Your Child section below.
- Contact your GP or school about the warning signs if things don’t improve
Be Your Child’s Biggest Supporter
If your child is experiencing problems or going through significant change, it’s important that you can be an anchor for them.
- Being an anchor will be reassuring for them if things are changing
- Maintaining hobbies and routines will be a ‘safety net’ for your child if they are struggling
- Be a sense of hope by encouraging them to keep participating in these things
Open up conversations about what they’re involved in – ask them to teach you about the things they are interested in, talk with them about music, current affairs, what they are learning at school etc.
Look After Yourself
It’s important to look after yourself by meeting your own self-care needs, so you are in the best positive to help your child. You cannot give to your child when you are running on empty yourself!
- Recognise when you’re finding things hard and talk to people you trust about how things are for you too
- Don’t blame yourself, it is not your fault
- Recharge your batteries and relax – plan to have just 20 minutes daily to yourself doing something you enjoy – reading a book or magazine, having a bath, going for a walk etc.
- Identify your basic needs and how to meet them daily – see above Meeting your physical and mind health needs section.
Talking to your Child
Young Minds have launched a #Take20 campaign which encourages parents to take 20 minutes a week to talk to their children about how they’re feeling and the pressures they face.
Talking to your child about how they are feeling can be hard. By taking 20 minutes with them to do an activity that you will both enjoy, you’ll create a relaxed space to start that conversation.
Whatever the activity, having regular conversations about wellbeing in a relaxed space can help parents to provide reassurance and support from a young age.
Follow this link to access helpful advice and ideas about how to have these conversations with your child whilst doing something enjoyable together:
5 GREAT steps to Wellbeing
Evidence suggests there are 5 steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try, you may feel happier, more positive and able to get the most from life!
G – Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can improve you
20/r mental wellbeing and help you build new social networks.
R – Relate to others – connect with the people around you: your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Spend time developing these relationships.
E – E Exercise your body – you don’t have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. Find an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your life.
A – Appreciate your world – be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges and encourages you to appreciate the good things in your life.
T – Try new things – learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. Personal growth and development gives us purpose and meaning in our life. So why not sign up for that cooking course, start learning to play a musical instrument, or figure out how to fix your bike?
CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS FOR LOTS OF GREAT SUPPORT:
Confidential (free) support for adults with alcohol, drugs, mental health:
We Are With You support site (formerly Addaction)
WHAT DO WE DO IN SCHOOL?
Our Mental Health & Well-being mentor in school is Miss Moor who
- Listens to any child who is worried, anxious and wants to talk (Miss Moor does not pry or interrogate children but if they themselves want to talk then she will listen and support them)
- Sometimes children will do an activity such as art or lego therapy as a way of helping the child to share their concerns instead of directly talking about difficult things
- Supports other staff if they are worried about a child’s mental health or well-being in helping them to listen (This could be discussing ways of helping the child or offering 1:1 or small group intervention work)
- Supports parents who are worried about their child’s mental health or well-being
- If a child tells us they are anxious about anything then we will always talk to parents/carers so we can work together as a team to support them, and if the child tells parents/carers they are worried about something then we encourage parents/carers to tell school so we can be aware and support them if we need to
- Please ring 01772 422503 or talk to your child’s class teacher in the first instance if you are worried in any way
- Miss Moor will often speak to our CAMHs key worker who supports us with advice. This is done with the permission of parents if we are discussing a specific pupil in school
- Nurture group work takes place throughout the year as an intervention for groups of children. This can take many forms depending on the needs in the school at the time. Recently it has been:
- Small groups of children talking about how they are since Lockdown and how they feel about the pandemic
- Small groups of children engaging in activities to build confidence and self-esteem and improve social skills
- Occasional 1:1 activities
Mental Health and well-being is a crucial part of our school and we encourage good health through:
- Our 1Decision PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education) scheme and materials which looks at all aspects of well-being using videos, discussion and booklets that the child takes through the school with them
- Our curriculum and teaching ensure there are plenty of opportunities to develop outdoor learning, discussion, talk partners, active learning, brain breaks and fun, all of which make for a mentally healthier experience in school
- Our assemblies and special events are frequently focused on mental health & well-being for example we have had several events with Rock Kidz who deliver key messages about resilience and perseverance through an exciting and engaging medium of rock & pop music
- We have launched a ‘Be Nice’ campaign encouraging the children to live by our school values and care for others as well as themselves
- In normal times (pre-COVID) we found that whole school events such as Bingos and Summer Fayres were wonderful times to connect and have fun together – however during these times we have used Zoom and on-line materials to help with maintaining connect in a COVID secure way and we are hopeful we will get back to the face to face connections again very soon
Mental Health and well-being is also important for adults (parents/carers and staff):
- Mrs Wright is our Family Support Mentor who is at the end of a line for any parents who are struggling (Ring 01772 422503 and ask fro Mrs Wright OR email firstname.lastname@example.org )
- Mrs Wright will either provide advice or will seek support for you (she knows a lot of helpful people!)
- The staff in school do a demanding job that can sometimes be stressful and so we seek to support our staff as much as we can whether through a listening ear, supporting each other as a team, supervision, counselling or just random acts of kindness