Should Schools be Teaching Mental Wellbeing Strategies?

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A guest post from @YourMindFitness

‘27% of suicides in young people are linked with the pressures of academic studies.’

Make Tutor Time about the students’ wellbeing and not the data.
Image credit: Total Shape

Over the 10 years that I have been teaching, I have observed the increased levels of stress on our young people. I believe that secondary schools need to STOP using Tutor Time for marginal academic gains. Instead, use Tutor Time to focus on student wellbeing.

The pressure put on students to achieve their target grade is causing some to have mental health challenges which they are totally unprepared for. A study conducted by the medical research company, Bazian, investigated suicide cases in people under 20. The study investigated data over a 16 month period which ended in April 2015. It reported that 70% of the cases were male and 46% of all cases were children younger than 18. It was also documented that 27% of suicides in young people are linked with the pressures of academic studies.

Individual schools or teachers are in no way responsible for these mental health figures. School performance is largely measured by academic outcomes, which puts schools under serious pressure to ensure that students reach their targets. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that medical research has claimed that exam pressures could be deemed the ‘final straw’ in many cases. These figures highlight the need for secondary schools to better prepare young people to cope with the stresses of both exams and life generally. Especially in males. But how? There is no time in the, already overcrowded, curriculum!

After reflecting on how schools might increase student stress due to academic demands, I asked myself, how can they start to improve students’ mental wellbeing? Is Tutor Time the answer? Tutor Time is often used for admin tasks or small academic challenges. Instead, could this time focus more on teaching children how they can improve their mental wellbeing? My personal and professional view is yes!

There has been a fantastic shift in the way that mental health and wellbeing is viewed in the UK. The work of charities, such as Heads Together, time-to-change & YoungMinds, have definitely improved the attitudes of society towards people who struggle with their mental health. Could the education system begin to play a role in reducing the risk of mental health problems in young people? The stress linked with target grades, and the entry requirements needed for students’ next steps, is out of a school’s control. But surely, schools could better prepare students to cope with the stress and anxiety which young people face in today’s education system. In order to make a real impact on improving mental health in the UK, I believe the time has come for schools to begin the teaching of mental wellbeing strategies.

I propose that during Tutor Time students should be taught how to use a variety of different mental wellbeing strategies to either improve or maintain good mental wellbeing. There are experts who have researched this field who could help to create simple schemes of work, with resources, for schools to have access to. Maybe there are already resources out there? Staff CPD would need to be offered to ensure that teachers felt supported, trained and prepared to deliver these sessions. Although this will take time, it’s a good thing as teachers could also benefit from these strategies. Surely that’s a win-win when it comes to mental wellbeing.

If you work in a school that is ahead of the game and is currently doing something similar to what I’m proposing please get in touch as I would be fascinated to learn from you.

Chris Misselbrook