Where’s your head at? Managing mental health in school

Education Executive caught up with Stephanie Cox of The Shaw Mind Foundation to see what school business managers can do to alleviate the pressure on teachers, students and, importantly, themselves

For so long mental health was cast into the shadows and laden with taboo; it’s a breath of fresh air to see it become a point of focus and understood as an important part of our general health. However, silenced for so long, it has become difficult to talk about and, while it’s now a part of the government’s agenda – especially for secondary schools – there is little funding available to truly implement mental health support in schools.

School business managers occupy a unique position and potentially hold the key to unlocking support mechanisms in schools – be that be offering peer-to-peer support, a listening ear for students, implementing management schemes to alleviate workloads or finding a way of providing training to staff. Using three simple questions, Stephanie Cox of The Shaw Mind Foundation takes a look at the role that SBMs can play in the wellbeing of teachers, students – and themselves.

You can do this by openly declaring your school as a ‘mental health open zone’, encouraging honesty and helping to eradicate any teacher embarrassment or guilt. Assuring teaching staff that they won’t be punished or discriminated against has a far bigger impact than you might realise. Identifying a senior member of staff as a go-to mental health advisor will also make teachers feel they can speak to someone in confidence if they are uncomfortable with more than one person knowing about their mental health issues.

On a more indirect basis, working with headteachers and other school policy makers to implement changes that alleviate stress, lessen heavy workloads where possible, limit overtime and remove unnecessary pressure will help combat the numbers of teaching staff having to take leave due to stress or mental illness. Asking your teaching staff for feedback on how you can help them in their day-to-day roles is a good way of identifying any changes you need to make.

At the heart of every school are the students; are there ways that SBMs can support their mental health and thus enhance their learning (experience)?

As they have a different relationship with students, SBMs may be able to provide a sounding board for students who might need to talk, signposting them to the appropriate member of staff who can help and support them, as well as affecting real administrative change that will help promote a culture of acceptance and positive action. SBMs are in a good position to work closely with headteachers in implementing basic mental health awareness and knowledge within schools.

Read more on how you can help Where’s your head at? Managing mental health in school

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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