Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

6 Trauma-informed schools

The UK government’s green paper ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ states that:

There is evidence that appropriately-trained and supported staff such as teachers, school nurses, counsellors, and teaching assistants can achieve results comparable to those achieved by trained therapists in delivering a number of interventions addressing mild to moderate mental health problems (such as anxiety, conduct disorder, substance use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder).

(Department of Health and Department for Education, 2017)

Therefore, a growing body of training for staff is now becoming available to help develop more effective strategies for dealing with various mental health issues in children and young people. Staff are also being encouraged to become more vigilant (on the alert) and proactive (prepared to act) in response to potential triggers and stresses that might lead to mental health problems.

You have already examined many of the issues that affect children’s mental wellbeing throughout the course so far. Can you recall some of these?

You may have thought of the following:

  • bullying
  • loss, including the death of significant carers, siblings, friends
  • parental separation
  • physical, emotional and sexual abuse
  • neglect
  • personal and family illness or disability
  • frequent house moves
  • living in poverty
  • lack of financial stability and resources at home.

Trauma-informed practice means that everybody within an organisation such as a school – from administrators to governors, teachers and parents – can understand, recognise and respond to the effects of all types of trauma.

You might like to look at the following website to see the kind of training that might be involved, and how such training relates back to many of the issues around supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing that have been addressed in this course to date:

Trauma informed schools [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (make sure to open the link in a new tab/window)

Activity 4 Trauma-informed practice

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the two clips of Christine describing her personal journey from teaching in school to counselling children.

As you watch the clips, reflect on what Christine found difficult about the school system, and how perhaps with more effective training in trauma-informed practice as discussed previously in this session, the situations Christine described might be better supported.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 10
Skip transcript: Video 10

Transcript: Video 10

I've always wanted to work with children. So I started my career, my first career, as a class teacher teaching languages. Notoriously difficult subject to teach, but I became very interested in working with children, and I also then wanted to understand children better.
So I took an interest in a pastoral role, and I became a year leader, a head of year, for Year 7. So that's the transition from primary to secondary school. And that really gave me the first insight and the very big privilege of getting to understand sort of stories behind the children and their families. And it really started with that.
I then became curious. I wanted to know more about how children develop, child development as a whole. And I started reading. I started talking to people, to professionals, such as educational psychologists, assistant head teachers, just some inspirational professionals. That's how I started to then think, hmm, I want to learn a little bit more about that. So I started to train. And I trained as a counsellor and therapist.
And also, I then felt that I had-- I call it a gift, but I had a way of connecting with younger people probably a little bit easier than adults, if you like. So I found that they started telling me stories about them.
And I remember a particular incident with a teenager, probably 13, 14 years of age. And we were just chatting in my office, and she said, you are the only one who really gets me, the only adult who gets me and who under-- how do you know this is how I feel? So that is one of the key moments that stayed with me, that made me think, I want to do a bit more than that.
End transcript: Video 10
Video 10
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Download this video clip.Video player: Video 11
Skip transcript: Video 11

Transcript: Video 11

And then I also felt as I had a responsibility for the pastoral welfare. And I took those two words very seriously, pastoral and welfare. I felt that the system, the school, the education system I was part of, was very constrictive and restrictive and actually very punitive. So children who would break the rules, we have to punish them. We have to tell them that that was wrong. But I wanted to differentiate. I wanted to understand why some children broke rules and what sat behind that.
So more and more, I became kind of a little bit-- not so-- subversive is not quite the word, but I tried to do things slightly differently for children. I wanted to protect them from the system, if you like. So I just took every opportunity I had to talk with young people.
There's another story I'll share with you, and that is I was walking-- in the school, we had a long, long corridor-- and a young girl walked by. As always, I acknowledged her. You OK? She said, yeah, I'm fine. But I wasn't convinced that she was fine, so I just sort of reflected, mm-mm, didn't sound quite right, invited her back to my office. And almost immediately she disclosed that she had been to the toilets to self-harm.
So that is just really the beginning of a long story then. I was able to signpost her and to get her the support and help she needed. And those two incidents really made me feel that's what I want to do more, work and support young people in a more long-term sustained way. That's what got me into counselling and therapy.
End transcript: Video 11
Video 11
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