At Wyvern we have all signed up to making a huge commitment to the recognition and improvement of everyone’s mental health, both pupils and staff. To this end we have embarked on a series of measures to meet this aim:
We have implemented a mental health group dedicated to bringing awareness of mental health issues for our pupils. The group consists of Bruce Douglas (Headteacher), Laura Giffen (clinical psychologist, Swifts), Ann-Marie Snell (Parent Support) and Alison Cooper (senior teaching assistant).
The group are working on gaining and then sharing a greater understanding of the mental health issues that affect our pupils, in addition to and often hidden by their learning difficulties, and how we can therefore better support them at school. The school promotes staff training in understanding mental health and wellbeing for staff and students.
It is estimated that mental health problems amongst adults with a learning disability is quite common, approximately 40%. This is more than double the rate of mental health problems in the general population. Children with a learning disability are also 3 to 4 times as likely to suffer from mental health problems as children without a learning disability.
Mental health problems are not always recognised in children with SEN because:
- of a gap between mental health services and learning disability services
- assessments to detect mental health problems in people with a learning disability are not always well developed
- when symptoms presented by someone with a learning disability are attributed to their learning disability rather than the true problem
- staff supporting people with a learning disability are likely to use a challenging behaviour rather than a mental health conceptual framework to understand problematic behaviour
Every person is different, but people with a learning disability may be particularly vulnerable to negative life events and might not have the mechanisms for coping with these. This leads to people with a learning disability having an increased risk of developing mental health problems. This can cause long-term pain which may lead to stress, irritability and anger, especially if not treated. (Royal College of Nursing 2010)
Staff wellbeing is clearly just as important in order to ensure that people feel as fit and well enough to be able to do their job to the best of their abilities. The deputy head (David Tomlinson) is responsible for staffing in general and therefore coordinating measures to maximise wellbeing.
Schools can be a stressful environment and we have to ensure that we take care of staff as much as possible. To this end we offer the following:
- For groups of staff – Laura will be providing group sessions for class teams who may, during the course of the year, experience significant stress within their classroom environment, for example after a serious incident, or through protracted exposure to challenging behaviours.
- For individuals – 1-1 confidential opportunities are offered for individuals wanting to discuss work-related issues which are affecting their mental health. We also buy into the Dorset Local Authority’s wellbeing scheme which provides up to 6 free counselling sessions for any individual in a school year.
Ultimately everyone’s mental health is of course everyone’s responsibility, and as a school we strive to be kind to each other, whilst being kind to ourselves too.