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 1.
With the changes to OFSTED common inspection framework, the guidelines specifically state:
To be Outstanding schools must enable students to be able to make informed choices about healthy eating,fitness and their emotional and mental well-being
Now, we are also being told Ofsted will assess the mental health services offered at all secondary schools.
As much as we welcome the new focus schools should be taking, staff feel left in the dark.
My series of blogs will be an attempt to share some tips when it comes to trying to roll out an effective MH & Wellbeing program in a secondary school.
The Mental Health & Wellbeing team should NOT try to replace the specialisms of a Psychologist or Psychiatrist.
I need to be honest about my qualifications. Yes! I do have a degree, a diploma in Higher Education and an Honours degree but it is not in Psychology, Counselling, Social work or Mental Health. My experience for this position came from the fact that I have over 20 years teaching experience of working with teens and am passionate about equality. I was already a key contact in the school for whole school LGBT / Anti-homophobia awareness campaigns & was the Anti-bullying coordinator. Without realising it, I had already started on a key strand delivering vital MH &WB support.
When my inspirational Deputy Head, Chris Edwards @chrisedwardsuk approached me with this idea of appointing a Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing I initially jumped at the opportunity; then a shadow of doubt came over me as I asked myself,“What qualifications do I have?”
This is the first mistake schools can make which can stall the process of making a start:
School staff should not suddenly be expected to replace the mental health nurse or clinical psychologist.
Schools need to realise that much of the Mental Health and Wellbeing work they can do should be pre-emptive. We are involved in a crucial stage of youth development where together with the family we can offer education, early intervention and support preventing the escalation of mental health incidents being referred to an already overloaded CAMHS.
Of course, we would like to see government-funded programs enabling daily access to essential Mental Health experts in every school but until the financial resources arrive, we need to stay focused on being proactive and pre-emptive.
Once you have your Head of MHWB, you need Adult Wellbeing mentors who are not teachers. These are your front line staff who will be working with the students on a daily basis. They need to be trained and available.
Separate SEN and Mental Health & Wellbeing.
Let students know that learning needs and mental health needs, although often linked, are essentially different; have two different spaces and different staff allocated.
This way you can really profile and start to open up the discussions about what Mental Health is and start the vital campaigns, such as #timetotalk @Timetochange in your school.
Part 2: job descriptions, policies, SDP & budget , environment
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
If you have an idea, experience or resource you’d be interested to share via my blog, please email me: email@example.com