Preparing for and sitting exams can be a difficult time for students, sometimes leading to depression, behavioural issues, and other stress-related problems.
Mental health issues in children and young people are widely believed to be at critical levels, with the most recent NHS survey of the Mental Health of Children and Young People in England finding that over 12% of 5- to 19-year-olds had mental health issues of one kind or another.
Teachers and schools are on the frontline of this, and it can sometimes feel that there is a tangible gap between school intervention and home intervention – with no coordination or collaboration.
How can the gap be bridged?
Open Door Policy
Parents need to feel as though they can communicate with teachers if there’s something concerning them about their child’s wellbeing, so an open-door policy regarding mental health issues is important.
Of course, boundaries for staff are also important to protect their own mental health – email and phone calls should be limited to appropriate times, and departments can work together on this to ensure no one staff member is completely responsible.
Prominent Displays of Material
Conveying to parents that tackling mental health can be a joint effort between school and home should be reiterated whenever parents come into school for parents’ evenings or other meetings.
Signposting, whether it’s in the corridors or in classrooms, can provide a valuable resource for parents who might not have considered mental health provision as directly related to their child.
Lack of awareness and knowledge about students’ mental health issues is one of the biggest dangers for mental health provision in schools and at home.
Build Effective Relationships
Communication between schools and parents can only be successful when it’s built on a foundation of trust. For parents, they need to trust that schools will take their concerns seriously, even if they may be sometimes unfounded.
Again, boundaries will help with this, but taking various opportunities to be around parents at non-academic events such as concerts and football matches will remind them that you’re both on the same side when it comes to their child’s wellbeing.
Schedule Special Sessions
Mental health must be discussed explicitly, especially in the case of students whose parents don’t believe it could affect their child because everything in their life is fine.
Scheduling sessions that discuss mental health alongside other things such as exam preparation and extra-curricular activities can embed the idea of mental health provision in parents’ minds when they might not usually attend events explicitly about mental health.
Use Open Letters for Impact
The mental health charity, Time to Change, has numerous resources to help schools and parents discuss mental health with children.
One of the most powerful resources is an open letter which can be sent directly to parents and which conveys the dangers of ignoring a child’s mental health problems or stigmatising them. The letter is free to download and includes links to further resources on the Time to Change website.