October 13, 2023
World Mental Health Day is every year on the 10th October. The theme for 2023, set by the World Foundation of Mental Health, is ‘Mental health is a universal human right’. In order to explore this theme in schools first we must understand what we mean by mental health. Mental health means feeling and functioning well day to day and overall, also known as flourishing, we all have a universal human right to flourish in life.
So how can you promote mental health in your school on this year's World Mental Health Day? In the video below I share ideas for schools to help them make this important day a success.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2023's theme was Anxiety. Anxious feelings are something that most of us experience at one time or another. But when those worrisome thoughts become overwhelming and begin to affect daily life—from exams, relationships, employment changes to everyday finances—anxiety can flare up into a bigger problem . It's important not only to recognize anxiety in ourselves but also know how best to manage it so we stay on top of our wellbeing.
As many as 1 in 6 children and young people are struggling with diagnosable mental health issues which include anxiety. Much more needs to be done to support the prevention of anxiety in children and young people.
We will update this article with the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 soon!
Mental Health Awareness Week is an important opportunity for us to check in with ourselves, your pupils and colleagues, and to think about what we can do to promote good mental health in our schools.
Here are some simple wellbeing activities that you can do with your staff team to help raise awareness and promote positive mental health in your school community. These would also make great activities for a staff wellbeing INSET day.
1. Why not start the day with a mindful minute? Encourage everyone to take a minute to sit quietly and focus on their breath. This simple mindfulness practice can help to centre ourselves and set a positive tone for the day ahead. This is also a very quick and easy activity to start mental health day with.
2. Take a break! Make sure that everyone takes a proper break for lunch – away from their desks if possible. Eating well and staying hydrated are essential for maintaining good mental health, so encourage your staff to make time for a healthy lunch. Maybe even provide some healthy snacks for them to munch on during the day!
3. Get moving! A little bit of exercise can do wonders for our mental wellbeing, so why not incorporate some gentle movement into the day? Even ten minutes of stretching or walking will make a difference. Alternatively, you could hold a ‘virtual’ fitness class at the end of the day – there are loads of great options on YouTube.
4. Connect with nature. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space at your school, make use of it! Spend some time outside in the fresh air, surrounded by nature. If you can’t get outside, bring nature into the classroom with some plants or flowers.
5. Check in with each other. At the end of the day, take some time as a team to check in with each other. How are we feeling? What’s been tough today? What’s been good? This is a chance for everyone to offload any concerns or stressors they might be carrying, and to receive support from their colleagues. Letting things build up can lead to burnout, so this regular check-in is an important part of preventive self-care.
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgement. It's a great way to improve your mental wellbeing, and it's something that everyone can benefit from. Mindfulness is popular in schools a great way to improve mental wellbeing, and it's something that we can all benefit from regardless of our age or experience level.
There are lots of simple mindfulness and wellbeing activities that you can do with your pupils to help them relax and focus on the present moment. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Breathing exercises: Focusing on your breath is a great way to bring your attention to the present moment. You can try out different breathing exercises with your students, such as 4-7-8 breathing (breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, breathe out for 8 counts) or belly breathing (place one hand on your stomach and breathe so that your hand rises and falls with your breath).
2. Sense scavenger hunt: This is a great activity for young children. Get them to pay attention to all of their senses by going on a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school grounds. They can tick things off their list as they find them, such as something that smells nice, something that feels soft, etc.
3. 5 things you can see/hear/touch: This is another mindfulness exercise that is suitable for all ages. Get your students to close their eyes and think of 5 things that they can see, 5 things that they can hear, and 5 things that they can touch. This exercise will help them to focus on the present moment and notice the world around them.
4. Gratitude journal: Encourage your students to start a gratitude journal where they write down 3 things that they're grateful for each day. This could be anything from having a delicious dinner to being able to play with their pet dog. Focusing on the positive things in our lives is a great way to boost our mental wellbeing.
5.Strengths spotting : This activity is all about focusing on our strengths and the positive things about ourselves. Get your students to think of 3 things that they're good at, 3 things that they're proud of, and 3 things that make them happy. This exercise will help boost their self-esteem and confidence essential for mental health and wellbeing
An important campaign on or around mental health day is #HellowYellow this is a campaign by the mental health charity YoungMinds, which encourages everyone to wear yellow on World Mental Health Day (10th October) to show their support for young people's mental health.
There are lots of ways that you can get involved with Hello Yellow at your school. Here are just a few ideas:
Mental Health Awareness day or week is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues and start important conversations with pupils, staff and parents. However, it's important to make mental health a priority every day, not just on one day of the year. There are lots of simple things that you can do to support mental health in your school community:
1. Continue to encourage open conversation about mental health between staff, pupils and parents.
2. Share information and resources about mental health, such as articles, books, websites, helplines which can be shared through mental health displays and notice boards and newsletters. Download our free poster for sharing mental health strategies with pupils here.
3. Promote healthy coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, self-care and resilience etc.
4. Encourage positive thinking and self-compassion with activities that support the development of well-being and resilience.
5. Plan opportunities to embed mental health into the curriculum through implicit and explicit teaching of wellbeing and resilience strategies.
6. Continue to foster a sense of belonging, community and connectedness within the school environment.
7. Support staff and pupils to find opportunities that develop autonomy, relatedness and competence, also known as self-determination theory - the key human needs for wellbeing.
8. Most importantly, continue to check in with pupils, staff and parents to see how they're doing and offer support where needed.
9. Prioritise staff wellbeing as part of your whole school approach. Without good staff mental health and wellbeing it is almost impossible to have good student wellbeing.
Whatever you decide to do to continue to focus on school mental health beyond mental health awareness day through your whole school approach, you must do it consistently and develop a shared understanding of strategies that protect mental health and develop wellbeing for all.
Mental Health Awareness Day is an important opportunity for us all to prioritise mental wellbeing for the whole school community.
Making mental health a priority every day will help to create a positive school environment that supports the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the community.
If you would like to learn more about our approach to whole school mental health and wellbeing access our free leading whole school mental health workshop inside our wellbeing academy.
If you would like to learn practical activities that improve mental health and wellbeing enrol on our Wellbeing Toolkit Course. If you need support to lead a strategic approach to school mental health then access our SMHL Wellbeing Pathway course inside our DfE assured Wellbeing Club.
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