Mind matters Advertisement feature by Daisy Dixon at Chrysalis Daisy Dixon, psychotherapist, talks about mental health and well-being

WITH children and young people returning to school after the summer holidays, I reflect on how they might be feeling moving into new year groups, new schools, and the impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

I asked my son, who is eight, how he was feeling and it was mixed: happy and excited to be seeing friends and starting a new year group, sad the holidays are over, and apprehension about what his new class might be like, and the work he will have to do.

Mental health and wellbeing are much more part of a child’s or young person’s vocab than when I was at school. It’s refreshing to hear children articulating their feelings and recognising it is normal to have feelings that are mixed or overwhelming.

Daisy Dixon

Although it’s getting easier to talk about mental health, our children and young people can still hide their emotions and feelings. The more their feelings are hidden, the more intense they can feel, impacting their thoughts and behaviours in ways that are unhelpful in the short term and damaging in the long term.

Early intervention is critical and can help to build up the social and emotional skills which are so essential for learning and life, support future good mental health, and discourage risky behaviour such as smoking, self-harm, eating disorder, and substance abuse.

I have been working in mainstream and special schools across Oldham and Tameside, delivering 1:1 therapy, workshops, inset day training, school assemblies, and staff mental health and wellbeing support.

The Chrysalis mental health ambassador training, delivered last year in primary schools, was a joy to teach. Six weeks of targeted intervention focuses on good mental health and wellbeing activities and techniques, supporting positive change and bringing mindfulness into daily life.

The unique value of this training is each student is upskilled within each year group to offer peer to peer support once they have graduated, empowering pupils to be mental health ambassadors for the school, and promoting a whole school approach that’s sustainable.

When I think about school settings, I always think about the staff. Supporting the staff is vital for a work force that is healthy, happy, and resilient. Staff are under increasing pressure, being closely monitored by Ofsted and headteachers, with very little down time and the most unpaid overtime of any profession.

According to England’s Health and Safety Executive, teaching is the most stressful occupation there is – about 80 per cent of teachers report stress at work and thousands of teachers leave the profession every year, predominantly due to stress.

More work needs to be done to support staff, through training to be able to help children and young people who have a mental health issue and how to approach challenging areas, such as self-harm.

This will mean they are listened to with a non-judgemental response that is kind and compassionate. And to echo this, senior management need to be trained to support their staff.

As the summer holidays end, I am heading over to Mahdlo to deliver our third and final mental health awareness workshop to young people aged 12-16. The training supports young people to understand mental health, recognise the signs of poor mental health and develop coping strategies and technique, so they can look after themselves, their peers, friends, family and at school.

I hope the young people of Mahdlo feel empowered once they finish the training and motivated to engage in their new academic year with a positive outlook and the skills to bring mindfulness into daily life.

• For more information please email daisy@chrysalispct.com

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