At Meadlands we have a two- fold approach to mental health:
- We aim to promote positive mental health for every member of our pupils, staff and wider community.
2.We aim to recognise and respond to mental ill health.
The Pastoral Team at Meadlands include:
Mental Health Senior Leaders: Mrs Sophie McGeoch (Headteacher), Miss Jessica Bunker (SENDCo) & Miss Sarah Taunton (Deputy DSL)
Dedicated Pastoral Lead: Ms Claire Davies
Dedicated Governor Link: Mrs Chloe Walkom
School Nurse: Mrs Maureen Branagan-Freeman
Why do we care about mental health?
At Meadlands, we feel strongly that no stigma should be attached to the term 'mental health', and we recognise the importance of supporting and educating children to look after their mental health and wellbeing, just as we would their physical health. Although there is no single accepted definition, the following one proposed by the World Health Organisation is frequently used:
Mental Health is a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.
We understand that a person’s mental health may encompass a range of strengths as well as difficulties, and these can range from mild to severe. According to the NHS 2017 survey, there has been an increase in overall rates of mental disorder. The area with the highest increase is emotional disorders, about one in 10 5-10 year olds had at least one disorder. In an average primary school of the same size as of Meadlands it is expected that:
- 3 children will be seriously depressed
- 11 children will be suffering from significant distress (which may include a divorce or separation or a bereavement)
- 12 children will be affected by phobias
- 15 children will have a conduct disorder (such as selective mute)
With this in mind, we take our responsibility to nurture and educate your children very seriously, and it is important to us that all pupils at Meadlands feel secure and happy, and that they have the ability to recognise, name and appropriately manage the many different emotions they will experience as they grow up. We are, after all, preparing future citizens of the world!
These are shocking statistics but we hope that it also makes you realise that, as a parent, you are not alone. There is support out there if you feel that your child may be struggling with your mental health.
Talking to your child about their mental health
Our wellbeing hub on Google Classroom which every child can access has age appropriate videos talking about mental health which you could watch with your child. They may find it easier to talk to you using a video as a prompt.
You know your child best and are best placed to notice possible changes in mood and behaviour. Sometimes however, it can be quite a shock if your child begins to open up to you about struggling with their mental health. These are some tips that might help:
Focus on listening: Let them talk. Ask occasional open questions if you need to in order to encourage them to keep exploring their feelings and opening up to you. Just letting them pour out what they’re thinking will make a huge difference and marks a huge first step in recovery.
Don’t pretend to understand: The concept of a mental health difficulty can seem completely alien if you’ve never experienced these difficulties first hand. You may find yourself wondering why on earth someone would feel like this, but don’t explore those feelings with the sufferer. Instead listen hard to what they’re saying and encourage them to talk and you’ll slowly start to understand what steps they might be ready to take in order to start making some changes.
Don’t be afraid to make eye contact: It’s important to try to maintain a natural level of eye contact (even if you have to think very hard about doing so and it doesn’t feel natural to you at all). If you make too much eye contact, your child may interpret this as you staring at them. They may think that you are horrified about what they are saying or think they are a ‘freak’. On the other hand, if you don’t make eye contact at all then your child may interpret this as you being disappointed with them – to the extent that you can’t bring yourself to look at them. Making an effort to maintain natural eye contact will convey a very positive message.
Offer support: Never leave this kind of conversation without agreeing next steps. This could be as straightforward as speaking to another family member, contacting an organisation or speaking to us.
Acknowledge how hard it is to discuss these issues : Acknowledging both how brave they have been, and how glad you are they chose to speak to you, conveys positive messages of support
Don’t assume that an apparently negative response is actually a negative response: Don’t be offended or upset if your offers of help are met with anger, indifference or insolence, it’s whatever is worrying them that is talking, not your child.
Never break your promises: Above all else, your child wants to know they can trust you. You can also be honest about the fact you don’t have all the answers or aren’t exactly sure what will happen next. Think about which next steps you can take together
Agencies that are a good starting point for advice:
Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/ Their website is full of information and it also has a Parents Helpline which parents have found useful in the past.
What can you do if you have a concern and you would like to talk to us?
If you are concerned about your child, we can both support them in school and support you in understanding which services are available, guiding you through the process of getting support. We work very closely with social care, the NHS, Educational Psychologists and CAMHs (Children Adolescent Mental Health Services), as well as local charities such as RUILS, Man & Boy and Welcare.
If you are worried about your child or about the impact a family member’s mental health may have on them, and you would like to speak to a member of staff about your concerns, please do make an appointment to see Mrs McGeoch, Miss Davies or Miss Bunker.
How do we support children to have a healthy mental wellbeing?
We invest heavily in pre-emptive work, which includes:
- The PATHS PSHE curriculum, which is embedded in all of our classes (including the Early Years) This enables children to develop a better understanding of themselves personally and socially, including their own and others’ feelings, and a shared vocabulary for describing these in class, in the playground and in assemblies. Please read more about our PSHE curriculum on our dedicated PSHE page here
- Dedicated Pastoral Lead link
- Worry boxes in each class
- Warrior boards celebrating resilience and determination seen in our children across the curriculum: Be a warrior not a worrier!
- Weekly dance, boxing and yoga sessions (in addition to PE) with external specialists, teaching children a wide range of strategies for regulating breathing, keeping calm or letting their energy loose!
- Dedicated assemblies, with guest speakers from charities such as RUILS, Childline and Mind
- Parent workshops, led by our SENDCo and School Nurse, on a range of health and wellbeing issues e.g. anxiety and healthy diets/eating disorders
- In Safe Hands – an annual event for school families and the local community link In advance of planning this event we always survey our families to find out what is affecting you, living in Ham and Richmond-upon-Thames and what are the worries and struggles you face. In the past three years, the event has focused upon mental health and support from social care, online behaviour and attachment disorders.
- Wellbeing Hub on google classroom which was launched during lockdown
We also prioritise interventions for groups or individuals who might need further support, such as:
- 1:1 and group ELSA (Emotional Learning Support Assistant) sessions
- Work with Richmond Support Groups such as RUILS, Young Carers, Man & Boy
- Zones of Regulation intervention for targeted individuals and groups
- Our PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog, Sika, and school dog, Chaplin, who visit us once a week
- Individually tailored approach to mentoring or support
- An art therapy student, working with targeted individuals in EYs and KS1
Mental Health Research Projects at Meadlands
We are delighted to be part of a Mental Health research project, a piece of joint work with a sample of schools in AfC and NHS CAMHs clinicians. The project started with a Mental Health Audit - please see below.
Mental Health School Audit 2019
We are an attachment aware school and are currently part of Achieving for Children's Attachment Aware School Award. Throughout the year 2020-21 the school will be part of an exciting CPD project training all staff in attachment aware and trauma informed approaches.
In addition to this we are committed to ensuring our staff team are well qualified and trained in supporting our children
- All Senior Leaders are trained to Safeguarding Level 3 and all other staff Level 2
- The ELSA, SENDCo, Designated Safeguarding Leaders and Headteacher are all qualified Mental Health First Aiders.
- PATHS curriculum training for all staff
- Restraint training for all staff
- Peer massage training for all staff
- Inspirational Speaker, Dr Nick Bayliss, teaching staff how to look after their own wellbeing! http://nickbaylis.com/
Mental Health for our Children
Please click here for Ms Davies' Happiness Half Hour lessons and advice on wellbeing during school closure
For parents and carers looking for more information to help understand their child's, or their own, mental health, we recommend the following websites:
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, click here
Papyrus, prevention of young suicide, click here
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, click here
Richmond-upon-Thames, MIND, for better mental health, click here
Parents, please find below a number of links to videos we hope you will find useful. These are a good starting point for your own understanding into managing your child's wellbeing. After watching these if you have any further questions or would like to share your concerns please do get in touch and make an appointment with your child's class teacher or Miss Davies.