28th November 2018
A whole school approach to the issue of Mental health
By Patricia Moores

Felsted School is taking an holistic approach to addressing mental health challenges believing that the only way to make a real difference is to look at the needs of everyone within the broader school ‘community’. Therefore the focus is on supporting and promoting the wellbeing and good mental health of all stakeholders: students, staff and parents.

‘Felsted has always put student wellbeing at the heart of everything we do and we have long had a range of strategies to help students negotiate the pressures of being adolescent in the changing modern world. However, we do not want to become complacent and are always looking at ways to improve our practice,’ says Karen Mehahey, Deputy Head, Counselling and Wellbeing.

‘Getting representation from right across the school community to support this initiative has been key,’ says Karen. 2 teams were set up, one for the prep school and 1 for the senior school and were cross functional and representative comprising; a member of the leadership team, housemaster/mistress, school nurse, matron, class teacher, SENCO, learning assistant and chaplain.

One of the ways the teams are working together to address the issues it is identifying is by working towards attaining the Wellbeing Award for Schools. This award involves developing 6 key areas:

  • The whole school community being involved in and committed to supporting emotional wellbeing and good mental health.
  • Developing systems and networks, internal and external, to provide support for a range of emotional needs.
  • A culture of awareness of mental health needs with no stigma or discrimination.
  • Promoting emotional wellbeing for staff and students.
  • Provision of high quality training in the area of mental health for staff, students and parents.
  • The strategic development of the promotion and protection of good mental health.

This is an in-depth process, which will take at least a year to complete, but will give a sound and solid base on which to develop provision for all members of the community. Formalising the systems and networks and communicating these will be a key part of this going forward, alongside assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of different interventions. This is a process which should be growing and moving forward – it will never be complete and finished, but evolving as needs change.

The first step is sending out a questionnaire to parents, staff and pupils in year 4 and above to assess the start point to measure improvement against. Post analysis of these questionnaires the following initiatives have now been introduced; communicating more clearly with parents and students about what help is available, offering mental health first aid training to parents – the first cohort is due to begin next term, plus looking into various training options to help staff take better care of themselves.  Progress on improving the support available and monitoring how services are accessed by all members of the school community will be communicated via the school’s weekly e-newsletter.