Staff at Swindon’s Lawn Manor Academy have introduced a range of measures to support students’ mental health in the midst of coronavirus.
Research carried out by the national Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU) on coronavirus and children and young people’s mental health indicates that while some children may have found that new ways of living and working has helped them develop skills or build resilience, for many it is having a negative effect on their mental health.
As well as a short-term impact, researchers believe that there may be consequences for their long-term mental well-being.
Lawn Manor Academy headteacher Sandra Muir said that a whole-school approach was taken to mental health, and students were encouraged to open up if they were finding life difficult.
“Perhaps most importantly, we keep reinforcing with students and their families that it’s OK to say you’re not OK,” said Mrs Muir.
“It’s important that they all understand that sharing the burden of an anxiety you have with someone you trust is not a sign of weakness.
"It’s actually the first step in making sure you stay well and strong.”
All teaching staff at Lawn Manor Academy, which is part of the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust, have recently completed online training as part of their continuing professional development to recognize and support pupils with mental health needs in school.
Helga Maddock, assistant headteacher for personalised learning and special educational needs co-ordinator, says that from the first lockdown staff at Lawn Manor Academy made supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students, their parents or carers, and colleagues a very high priority.
“Resilience is one of our core values and we are continually supporting pupils to develop this in all aspects of their academic and social lives at Lawn Manor Academy, so we started in a good place,” said Mrs Maddock.
“But even the most resilient of people can find life very stressful at the moment. We know that the anxiety that the current situation produces can lead to fear about the future, disrupted sleep, lack of socialisation, lack of self-worth gained from friends, and stress generated by knowing that parents may be struggling with finances or caring responsibilities.
"And of course, sadly, some students will be trying to cope following the death of someone they love.
“We have been running wellbeing articles in the school newsletter on topics such as relaxation and breathing techniques, with links to local and national services and charities that support and promote good mental health.
"On National Fitness Day Year 7 pupils took part in a ‘mindful mile’ where they were encouraged to consider the positive impact of fitness on good mental health whilst running.
“And on World Mental Health day pupils were invited to take part in the Young Minds #helloyellow challenge to earn house points by doing things like smiling at a friend, reminding someone of something nice they did for you or asking someone if they need help or making someone laugh.
“We also are continuing to work closely with Barnardos’ Swindon Trailblazer, an early help mental health service for children and young people. And, mindful of the very calming effects that nature can have on all of us, we practice some of our support outdoors, whenever the weather permits.”