Mental Health in Primary Schools

Mental health is something we all experience throughout our lives but before you have the language to talk about it, how can you understand it?

In the last three years, there’s been nearly a 50% increase in referrals to child health services from pupils aged 11 and under. Many primary school pupils are also being repeatedly rejected for mental health support. We think getting students to understand their own and others’ feelings is a massive step towards getting them the support they need earlier.

There are loads of great resources available about primary school mental health and how to promote wellbeing in the classroom. Mentally Healthy Schools provides a comprehensive outline of different issues children might encounter and a library of resources to use in class.

BBC Teach has a whole host of videos, life stories and clips on mental health and wellbeing  for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 that visually engage learners. Themes explored in the collection include Mental Health, body image, friendship, bravery, learning differences and growth mindset.

There’s also organisations that are stepping in to improve children’s wellbeing. HeadStart Newham has been supporting Newham schools to build resilience in the whole school community and to recognise the strengths their pupils and pupils’ families already have, as well as developing new skills to help them overcome challenges and tough circumstances. Online you can find out which activities they are hosting in Newham, read amazing case studies about their work and find out how to get involved. HeadStart also operates around the UK in Wolverhampton, Hull, Blackpool, Kent and Cornwall.

It’s worth remembering while Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week has amazing assembly guides, class activities and fundraising ideas for this year’s theme Find your Brave, you can also download resources designed for the previous 4 years. This means you could explore the themes Being Ourselves, Building Resilience, Healthy Inside and Out and Spread a Little Kindness with your class.

Because we feel strongly about children’s wellbeing, two of our Experiences are focused on how to understand mental health. Our KS1 Experience lets children engage with disappointment and how sadness can turn to anger, as well as how to explain this and look for support. Our KS2 Experience helps them recognise symptoms of distress, like feeling overwhelmed and being unable to concentrate. Both stories are designed to open up conversations and build empathy by providing context for and a vocabulary of mental health. These Experiences work really well for consolidating what’s already been done in class around mental health and for inspiring follow on work that digs deeper into how to spot and recognise emotional states.