Created in 2014, Carpe Diem Emmie is a Midlands based Lifestyle, Theatre and Travel blog. Ran by Emmie, a 28 year old woman based in rural Leicestershire.

In the day Emmie works in a primary school where she is passionate about inclusion and mental health. In the evening she escapes to the cultural world.

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The Importance of Discussing Mental Health in the Classroom.

It was reported by The Guardian back in April that the 'Mental health of pupils is at crisis point'. A survey conducted by the National Education Union of 8,600 school leaders and support workers reported that 83% of them had witnessed a increase in the number of children with poor mental health within their care, rising to 90% amongst students in colleges. This survey also showed that more than 8 out of 10 teachers said mental health amongst pupils in England has deteriorated in the past two years - there has been a notable rise in the reports of anxiety, self-harm and even cases of suicide. But this doesn't help with inadequate support available in schools. 

Stark information from the National Education Union noted that fewer than half said their school had a counsellor available, 30% of them had been able to access the external specialist support available like NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), fewer than 30% had a school nurse and only 12% of the respondents had a "mental health first aider", as favoured by the government. 

It's a really vital time for the government to see the importance of mental health in our schools. 

Someone who is very conscious of this is Jessica from Theatre Tickets and Tea. As part of this week-long series of posts for World Mental Health Day, Jessica takes on this subject matter. She is currently training to be a primary school teacher. 

The wellbeing of children of primary school age is something I’ve always been very passionate about. I’ve worked as a drama teacher in lots of different ways over the last year. I’ve seen kids on good and bad days. I’ve seen the way schools and clubs can be a safe space for kids. Feeling low or anxious is not limited to adults, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that we need to be doing more to champion wellbeing and campaign for mental health support in primary schools. I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher, and so I hear on a daily basis how important it is to look out for the students in my care and do all I can to give them a positive, rounded experience of education. But so many people do not understand that children can experience difficult times too. They can experience all kinds of mental health issues, from anxiety disorders and panic attacks to eating disorders, as well as lots of other conditions. This is why we need to do more.

Educators and those working in schools should be trusted adults in these kids’ lives, people they can turn to in times of need and feel as though they can open up to. We need to know how to spot signs of children experiencing challenging times and poor mental health. We need to be aware of how we can best support these children and young people and the different organisations we can turn to for further advice.

Schools can get creative; they can pool their resources and create services unique to them. In some settings, it helps to have some kind of room or calm space where children feel they can go to escape the pressure of day to day school life; I’ve known rainbow rooms, full of calming visuals and comfy sofas. I believe every school in the UK should have trained mental health first aiders; this is just as important as having first aiders. If a child falls and grazes their knee, we clean the wound and give them a plaster. We should be offering the same kind of prompt, immediate support for children with worries and difficulties, as we do to those with cuts and bruises. We can reward them for honesty and openness. We can encourage children to recognise what makes them feel happy, or sad, and every emotion in between. We should also be encouraging children to talk about how they feel regularly, so it does not feel alien to discuss their feelings. Bringing literature into schools, like Matt Haig’s The Truth Pixie and Dr Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go are perfect ways to explore thoughts and feelings in an exciting, engaging way – even with young children.

There are lots of ways we can improve mental health services in primary schools, and new ideas are being trialled in primary schools all the time. It goes without saying that NHS services such as CAMHs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) are stretched to the limit, helping as many as they can, but it is often difficult for these organisations to provide all the necessary support. If we can provide support for mental health in schools, we can help alleviate some of the pressure on these services and provide children with an initial point of contact for when they experience any problems.

I truly believe if we can give them a strong, supportive platform early in life, which allows them to openly discuss their emotions and worries, we will be setting them up the next generation of ambassadors for open mental health discussions and peer support networks.

Children are amazing, wonderful and easy to inspire – we can always do more, for them.

One fantastic resource for anybody working in a school or for parents who want to approach their child's school to do more is Mentally Healthy Schools.


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