Last week I attended a mental health first aid course run by Mental Health First Aid, (https://mhfaengland.org/) it was excellent and covered everything from – What influences mental health, Depression, Anxiety, Suicide ideologies, Psychosis, Self-harm and Eating disorders. As I was driving home I realised that as a school Health Mentor I have deal with all of these this school year (except psychosis) the school I work in is an outstanding school (in every sense of the term) in an affluent area.
The part of my role I cherish most is the 1-1 mentoring where I get to use my training, qualifications and experience to devise bespoke worksheets and activities which help young children to understand why they behave and feel the way they sometimes do. Some days I am humbled to the point of tears at the progress made my some of my mentees. Other days I am enraged, to the point of tears, at the position children find themselves in.
One of the mentoring sessions I use around family tensions includes –“This is what I want to tell you…” and “This is what I want to hear from you……” It can be a very powerful tool in communication.
It’s surprising how many parents can hear but not listen.
This week I will be working with children moving from our primary school, where every member of staff knows them, their backgrounds and family history to their secondary schools where they will be just one of hundreds of the ‘new kids’ for some this will be a chance to turn over a new leaf, a blank canvas and a fresh start. Sadly, for others it means leaving the care and support of the school ‘village’ that have raised them so far into a new, bigger, scarier village without the care and support network they have known since day one in reception.
In preparation for this I have designed an activity worksheet “I wish my teacher knew” and then contemplated the various back stories, traumas and difficulties already encountered by these young boys and girls. I considered how I have been able to support them because I both know of their problems and have been trained to help. Who will continue that work in September?
Most schools do not have the luxury of an Evolve Health Mentor, (www.evolvesi.com) trained in mentoring, counselling and mental health first aid. So how do other schools provide exceptional support for their pupils who need specialised support? The answer is in most cases, they don’t.
They have fantastic staff, naturally supportive, caring and giving their absolute all to help the children living with trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, but the lack of understanding and training in how trauma interrupts brain development and triggers a fight, flight or freeze response which manifests itself as poor behaviour means that despite the best efforts of wonderful good-intentioned teachers, teaching assistants, support staff and pastoral workers the pupils’ traumas remain untreated which can cause long term problems.
A movement to have all schools ‘trauma informed’ is gathering pace – the 70/30 campaign aims to reduce child abuse by 70% by 2030. https://www.70-30.org.uk/ this is vital in ensuring that the children who have the toughest start in life get the best help.
It’s global and needs addressing.