9 October 2019

World Mental Health Day: 'Put your own mask on before helping others'

You will hear the same safety announcement every time you take a plane journey. At first it seems odd and runs against the whole notion of looking out for other people.

Parents in particular find it quite shocking because it is natural to want to help distressed children and to make sure they are safe. But when you think about it, it’s common sense. You need to have calm responsible adults who are in a position to help vulnerable children.

So, the same analogy applies in schools. Staff who are struggling, mentally unwell and stressed are not firing on all cylinders. They struggle with active listening and may not have the capacity to give the level of support that is required.

Signs you might be stressed include not being able to switch off and enjoy normal activities, having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, feelings of isolation and alienation or emotional outbursts

Special educational needs coordinators and safeguarding leads are often on the receiving end of high levels of distressing information and so are under particular pressures. We are found in our work at Innovating Minds that they welcome the opportunity of having individual clinical supervision so they can reflect, discuss their work and share their feelings and responses. This is not an indulgence. It is not a chance to have a moaning session. It is a chance for professional development which will help them to stand back, be more objective and adopt a solution focused approach to the issues that confront the child.

We work in a number of schools where there is a clinical psychologist to support staff and soon there will be trained Mental Health Leads. However, we know that many people are feeling the strain of working without the support they need right now.

So take a moment on October 10th, World Mental Health Day, to consider what you can do to help yourself.

Number one has to be to take time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty. Seek support from others and spread the load. Make sure that you are not working late into the evening or going to bed with your head full of worries and concerns. Make sure that you look after yourself, have time out whether it’s watching telly, having a bath or going for a run.

Remember: you need to be the best possible YOU if you are to help the children in your care and the people around you.



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