Children's Mental Health Awareness Week
This Children’s Mental Health Week we have been exploring the theme ‘Growing Together’, thinking about how we can grow and develop our resilience to overcome challenges, together rather than stuck on our own.
We had two whole-school assemblies, one for King’s and one for Warwick, where six boys and six girls gave a talk on Mental Health. Read the full assembly delivered to pupils below:
How have the last two years been for you? Many of us have shown remarkable resilience dealing with the changes of the last two years, indeed I know some of us actually preferred online learning and found the return to school to be the hardest bit! But not everyone has coped as well. The NHS recently released a report that said that ‘1 in 6 children in England had a probable mental disorder in 2021’.
This Children’s Mental Health Week we have been exploring the theme ‘Growing Together.’ Growth can take different forms. Physical growth is easy to see as we grow from babies to children, teenagers to adults. We might even experience growth spurts from time to time. Another way that we can grow is emotionally. Things that upset us when we were younger may no longer overwhelm us as we grow and learn to cope with life’s ups and downs. Challenges and set-backs can help us to grow and adapt. Trying new things can help us to move beyond our comfort zone into a new realm of possibility and potential.
You might remember times when it was really hard and you felt like you would never get through it. Emotional growth is often a gradual and non-linear process that happens over time, and sometimes we might feel a bit ‘stuck’. We can even feel like we are sometimes taking a few steps backwards – especially when we come up against a difficulty and feel overwhelmed. Sometimes it might feel like we are not developing, when in fact we are. Think of a winter landscape - plants appear to be dead or dormant, but in fact they are busily growing beneath the surface.
Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘neuroplasticity’? – our brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt throughout our lives and in response to our experiences. With practice the brain’s neural pathways strengthen, which is why you may find it easy to learn or memorise a TikTok dance or pick up a new football skill. We do this more quickly and easily as adolescents, than we do at other stages of life. Here’s a video clip that explains the amazing growth and development that occurs in the teenage brain:
At difficult times it can feel hopeless, like there is no way through. At those times we need to be able to fall back on tried and tested methods, a toolkit to help us to overcome challenging moments. Pupils who have done Protective Behaviours at Primary School might remember the two key principles:
1. We all have the right to feel safe all the time.
2. We can talk to someone about anything, no matter how awful or small.
The first principle, ‘we all have the right to feel safe all the time’ is really important. You have the right to feel SAFE, safe from being overwhelmed by thoughts, you have the right to feel happy, healthy and well. Part of this is being kind to yourself, allowing yourself to get things wrong and not beat yourself up about it.
I wonder if you have made a New Year’s Resolution this year. Here are some common examples:
- I’m going to eat less junk food
- I’m going to watch less TV
- I’m going to use Instagram and Snapchat less
Notice how many of the resolutions are about ‘giving something up,’ depriving ourselves of something we see as negative. How many of us set resolutions about growing and developing? About making POSITIVE changes that will help us to feel better? Consider the different ways in which you would like to grow and develop. Think about a ‘resolution’ and consider what you will need to do to achieve it. In order to develop and grow, the brain needs lots of practice.
One resolution that will undoubtedly help you to improve your wellbeing this year and which you should really practise is to prioritise sleep. Sleep is incredibly important to support our growing brains during the teenage years. We may think of sleep as a time when we are doing ‘nothing’ – we may believe our bodies and brains are dormant as we lie in bed. However, important stuff happens whilst we are sleeping that helps us to grow and develop – our bodies and brains remain active and engaged during sleep. Practise this week getting between 8-10 hours of sleep EVERY night.
That second principle of Protective Behaviours, “we can talk to someone about anything, no matter how awful or small” is really important for our wellbeing too. Do you have a network of safety of people you can turn to in difficult moments? Do you have people who you can discuss things with when life feels really hard? If not, think about the people in your lives who help you to grow and flourish, even during challenging times. This could be a sports coach you get on well with, your pet, friends, teachers, parents or carers, extended family, an online community, a faith-based group or youth club, people you share an identity, hobby, culture or interest with.
Talking to others in your network of safety when you are having troubles is a really great way of being resilient in the face of difficult challenges. Other people often empathise with those challenges as they might have gone through similar difficulties themselves. They can give you some perspective when your challenges feel insurmountable.
Remember there are people who you can talk to at Warwick School/ King’s High when you are feeling unsafe and that life is tough. You can speak to someone in your network of safety, perhaps your form tutor, Head of Section or another teacher you trust. You can ask for help by dropping into the Wellbeing Hub or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can message anonymously on Whisper.