Clare Erasmus is the newly appointed Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing at Magna Carta School. She has been kind enough to agree to share her journey through a series of regular blog posts. Please take time to read, support and question.
Implementing a Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing program in your school: Part 3: Research the voices
The purpose of a MH & WB program should be to raise awareness & promote mental health and emotional wellbeing. This should be done through pre-emptive support work with students showing early signs of mental health needs & educating staff & students in discussions of ‘What is Mental Health?’
That is your vision but your mandate has to come from the student & staff voice. It is essential that schools LISTEN to the needs BEFORE they roll out various whole school initiatives.
Our student voice was ascertained through a comprehensive research project with researcher, Dr Rebholz. The qualitative data was gathered from focus group sessions.These results then informed the type of detailed questions we asked in the questionnaires as we gathered the quantitative data.
Based on the initial results we were then able to make informed decisions about what OUR students needed.
For example, most of our student results revealed:
• They did not always know WHERE to get support for Mental Health
• They did not know WHO to talk to
This resulted in our school working with Gaia technologies & creating a student led, FREE Mental Health & Wellbeing app – My TeenMind. On the app the students have all the key information they need on the various topics of mental health and it clearly lets them know where they can go in the school and who they can talk to. Providing this digital support along with lots of physical signs throughout the school ensures our students now have easy access to the information they need.
The full details of this intensive research project is going to be released by Dr Rebholz in Summer 2016 with details of the process & questions as a possible model of excellence for others to follow.
Listening to the staff voice.
Led by our senior Deputy Head, Kathy Janzan, the idea was to prepare a staff questionnaire which really questioned staff mental health & wellbeing both in the work place and home. SLT should not assume they know what the results will be. Just engaging in the process of LISTENING is part of the healing & providing tangible support with mental health. Have transparency with the staff results. Similarly – be honest about what is achievable & what is personal responsibility. Engage with your staff. Prepare a ‘You said, We did’ response.
Based on the results we once again were able to make informed decisions.
For example, it’s no surprise the results revealed coping with Stress as a major factor.
This resulted in our school holding a whole staff INSET on Mindfulness as a practice and rolling out an 8 week voluntary training program in the .b foundation Mindfulness course using Mindfulness in schools.
Like physical health and nutritional health, we all have mental health but we are also all different. Engaging in this research will help you hear the different voices of your school community so your whole school projects will be specific to their Mental Health needs.
Clare Erasmus is currently Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing and Head of Creative Media Studies at a comprehensive secondary school in Surrey. Over the last 10 years she has collaborated with students and overseen major anti-homophobia and anti-bullying campaigns which have gained national recognition. ‘Homophobia – our closeted education’ was a film produced in 2011 by the students and has since been used by over 200 schools in training staff and students on what is homophobic language. In 2015 she embarked on a whole school mental health and wellbeing program which amongst many things involved the students creating their very own bespoke mental health & wellbeing app called My TeenMind. Recently, Clare also helped organise and host the UK’s first Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing Teachmeet.
She has also recently been announced as the runner up for the 2015/16 Community Champion Award . The Community Education Awards recognised Clare for making an outstanding contribution to helping children become positive community members.
Tweet Clare @cerasmusteach
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