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The Development of Mental Health Awareness in Schools in Wales

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There are many reasons behind poor mental health in children and young people. The reasons can be complex, and there is not one specific cause but a combination of contributory factors. While there are limited data on the prevalence of mental health problems among children and young people in Wales, it’s believed that one in eight children has a diagnosable mental health condition. In fact, mental health is most commonly raised with parents and carers in Wales and is considered a priority by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales.

The Increase of Awareness 

With more and more students suffering from mental health struggles, it’s time educators give importance to mental health awareness. After all, they are the student’s first line of defence. They should recognise how a student’s mental illness can affect learning and achievement. More importantly, they should realise that there are things they can do to help students be more aware of mental health. 

Since mental health education is not yet mandatory in all schools in Whales, teachers and administrators must work hard to promote awareness among their students. Some of the most important aspects they should focus on are the concept of self-care and being responsible for their mental health and wellness. They must also recognise that mental health is integral for overall health and understand how to recover from mental illness. 

Students and educators should know how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health illness. In addition, there should be opportunities around the awareness of mental health crises in Wales, including the risk of suicide and self-harm. They should explain the link between mental health difficulties, substance abuse, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. Above all, they should recognise the harsh impact of stigma and cultural attitudes towards mental health.

Mental Health in Young People in Wales 

Currently, there is limited information and data regarding the mental health situation in Wales. Data from the National Health Survey revealed that about 9% of adults have a mental disorder. In 2012, the local government launched the Together for Mental Health Strategy, which aims to improve the overall mental health and well-being of the people in Wales. 

While there are limited data on how prevalent mental health struggles are among children and young people in Wales, it’s been found that three young students in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Mental health is the most common difficulty raised by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales by children and their parents. 

There are many reasons behind poor mental health among children and young people. The reasons can be complicated, and there may not be a single specific cause. In most cases, it’s due to a combination of different contributory factors.

Some of the most common causes of mental health in young people are economic inequality, rural life, and adverse experiences during childhood years.

How Can Schools Help with Mental Health? 

Research from the NHS shows that 1 in 6 school children in the UK struggle with mental health. Mental health can make it difficult for students to excel in school, develop friendships, and make better life choices. Thus, educators should know how to spot common signs of mental health struggles.

Online safeguarding courses to help teachers about mental health disorders and how to notice signs of mental health, should be the first step to addressing the prevailing mental health among students in Wales.

Since teachers spend the most time with students, they should be on the lookout for any signs of mental health. These include tiredness, lack of confidence, difficulty concentrating, reduced socialising, losing interest in things they enjoy, frequent absences, and complaints of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches.

Teachers should encourage children to come forward if they struggle with mental health. Students who will come forward with their struggles must not be subjected to bullying. Most importantly, schools should work hard to reduce mental health stigmas.

What Impacts Mental Health in Schools? 

It’s alarming that about 75% of young students who suffer from mental health problems are not getting the help they need. The student’s emotional well-being is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows them to develop the resilience they need to deal with whatever struggles life throws at them and grow to become healthy adults.

Mental health can affect a student’s performance at school in many ways. It could negatively impact their energy level, ability to concentrate, and optimism. All these can hinder them from performing well in school. Research shows that depression is highly associated with low-grade averages, and other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, can further worsen the situation.

If not addressed, mental health struggles and learning disorders can force students to drop out. The consequences of these are serious, eventually affecting the child’s future. These can result in unemployment, prison, and reduced quality of life. Therefore, mental health among students must be addressed early on before they can get worse.

How to Support Children with Mental Health 

It can be difficult for some educators to recognise when a student needs support with mental health. Also, it can be difficult for young students to open up about their mental health struggles. Therefore, teachers must recognise early signs a student is suffering from mental health difficulties. They must also be aware of the proper steps to support students in getting the help they need.

Children and young people must have someone they trust and talk to. They may not want to open up about their mental health, but they can talk about the challenges they face in their personal lives. As a teacher, if you notice that a student may be struggling with mental health, do not wait for them to open up to you before you start a conversation. Encourage them to talk and make them feel you are someone they can trust. 

When talking to a student, do it in such a way that they will understand you. Observe how they express their feelings and choose your words carefully. Make the students feel you are there to support them with their struggles.