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Who is responsible for children’s mental health?

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Written by Kate Fellowes

Head of Pastoral, Nadeen School

A person’s mental health describes their emotional, psychological and social well-being. It regulates how we think, how we feel and how we act as well as how we cope with stress and handle it and how we present to others around us. Recognising and supporting mental health does not have an age limit and should be an integral part of education and home life alike.

A direct quote from The World Health Organisation states: ‘Mental health is critically important for everyone, everywhere, and goes beyond the mere absence of a mental health condition. It is integral to well-being, enabling people to realise their full potential, show resilience amidst adversity, be productive across the various settings of daily life, form meaningful relationships and contribute to their communities. Physical, psychological, social, cultural, spiritual and other interrelated factors contribute to mental health, and there are inseparable links between mental and physical health. Promoting and protecting mental health is also critical to a well-functioning society (WHO, 2022).

How do we, as adults, support children’s mental health? This is a multi-step approach and requires the whole community to be on board in a combined effort. In schools, mental health education should begin during the early school life because children are beginning to form their first friendships, developing self-worth and building their confidence. It is important that these are supported moments in a child’s life to encourage them as positive experiences.

The main goal of mental health education should be to raise awareness. This means teaching children the meaning of mental health and how they can cultivate positive mental health. Teaching children that they are responsible for their individual mental health as well as teaching them that mental health works in tandem with physical health and is part of overall well-being.

Alongside raising awareness to mental health, it is important to educate children, parents, and teachers how to recognise mental health related issues within themselves and others. By doing this and having an increased understanding of the importance of mental health, we can minimise severe mental health issues and promote a greater acceptance and understanding. According to the NSPCC website, it explains the signs of mental health issues and the importance of adults being able to recognise them. Some signs to look out for would be a change in behaviour such as becoming more subdued with activities they previously used to engage with, sleeping pattern changes and sudden poor academic behaviour or performance.

What challenges do children face when growing up? This can include, but is not limited to, bullying, low self-esteem and confidence, exclusion and unhealthy competition and rivalry. By stepping in early and encouraging changes in behaviour, we can reduce the intensity of mental health issues.

To conclude, who is responsible for children’s mental health? It is a community effort. Families and schools have the powerful ability to promote positive mental health by first and foremost raising awareness. Families and schools should also work to develop confidence and self-esteem and should ensure that they recognise the signs of mental health issues. It must be an essential part of education. It is important that schools provide a nurturing environment to support emotional wellbeing, have a holistic, child-centred approach that involves families into their child’s educational journey and also build strong, positive relationships with children in their care. By having a flexible approach that is individually tailored to each child promotes a supportive and positive learning environment.

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