New Voice: Reflections on Mental Health + Wellbeing
PGCE student, Leanne Tweddle, reflects: Am I affecting their mental health?
Mental health is often a difficult topic for people to discuss especially when discussed in relation to young people. Mental health problems affect approximately 1 in 10 young people. This includes depression, anxiety and eating disorders which are a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Shockingly, around 70% of young people experiencing mental health issues do not have the appropriate interventions at an early enough age in order to have an effective recovery (Good Mental Health for All: Children and Young People).
I chose to write about mental health for this reflective blog, using Boud reflective model (Boud et al, 1985), as I have recently become a youth mental health first aider and it has highlighted to me how many of the young people I work with are affected in some way by poor mental health, and Boud’s model enables me to use this training to gain “new understandings and appreciations” (Boud et.al, 1985, p.19) in relation to this. As a SEN teacher I am aware that young people with learning difficulties are at much greater risk of having mental health problems and in fact they are over 6 times for likely to have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder (Children and Young People with Learning Disabilities: Understanding their Mental Health). I currently have 11 students in my class and over 50% of them have or are suffering with mental health issues and following my training I have been reflecting on how I have been supporting these students within my classroom.
The first issue I want to address is MY behaviour! Both during and since my training I have spent time reflecting on how my actions may have helped or hindered the level of support I was providing to my students who may have mental health concerns. As a busy teacher it is easy to sometimes miss or not allow enough time for an issue which may arise. The training has taught me that when an issue arises it is best to deal with it there and then and take the time to deal with it properly so that the young person feels listened to. When a young person has come to me with issues in the past I have always discussed the issue with them and signposted them to the correct intervention, support or agency but did I always allow the young person time and did I always appear 100% focused in the young person’s perspective? Moving forwards I am going to ensure (to the best of my ability) that I appear and sound approachable, always allow the appropriate amount of time to listen non-judgementally (MHFA, 2017, p. 108) and use my training, reflection and further research to ensure I put the correct next steps in place.
The second thing I felt I needed to reflect on was my knowledge in relation to mental health. I am made aware of the basic background information in relation to my students but I don’t always have as much information as I perhaps need to fully support them and I had perhaps not done enough research into the associated mental health conditions. The training gave me a good insight into the basics of several mental health conditions, and I have used this to go away and conduct further reading and research into the conditions which affect my students. I have also spent more time with pastoral staff in school to share further information regarding students and their mental health wellbeing. Subsequently, I am going to endeavour to continue working more closely with support staff and continue my own personal development in this area so that I have the knowledge to better support my students. Considering the Equality Act (2010), just like student’s Special Educational need, their mental health needs need to be considered to ensure we are making reasonable adjustments in order to meet their needs.
Another thing I want to reflect on is how I promote mental health and wellbeing. As a school we have a relatively good system in place for supporting mental health issues due to the nature of the cohort but was I doing this to the best of my ability? Following the training and after additional research I found myself looking into ways I can improve this, as it is important that I (along with the rest of school) promote good mental wellbeing for all pupils. To do this I need to:
- Be aware of signposting and referral procedures
- Build anti-stress and relaxation into my timetable
- Allow safe spaces for reflection and active listening
- Opportunities for one-to-one interactions
(Avis et al, 2009, p. 73)
This will ensure that I am “maintaining and promoting students’ mental health and not causing undue stress or exacerbating difficulties whilst teaching” (Avis et al, 2009, p. 73).
The final thing I want to reflect on is my own mental health. During my research I read about the impact teachers wellbeing and mental health has on their students. Students are very much attuned to their teacher’s mood and this will have an adverse effect on how they both learn and behave in class (Leeds Beckett University, 2019). This made me think about how my mood may affect my class and I realised the importance of developing my own strategies to manage my own mental health and therefore increase my resilience in dealing with issues. My resolution for this is to allow myself time to relax, maintain a healthy work-life balance, be aware of my potential triggers, develop effective coping strategies, seek support if needed and discuss any potential issues with management (Avis et al, 2009, p. 73-74). Students often model their behaviour on those around them and if I have a positive mental health I will be a better role model to student and be better equipped to deal with any issues which may arise related to poor mental health.