Mental Health and Wellbeing
At St Thomas More, we take the mental health and well-being of our students very seriously. Whilst we recognise our responsibility to ensure our students achieve academically, we also understand the importance of developing resilience and perseverance and how to cope when things don’t go to plan. This is undoubtedly helping them to prepare for the challenges of an ever-changing world.
We aim to promote positive mental health through all we do, recognising that students need to be both resilient and mentally healthy in order to meet their full potential both academically in in life more widely.
The impact of the pandemic
The mental health and wellbeing of young people has gained much publicity during the Covid 19 pandemic. The press in particular has focused on children’s experiences in this time and particularly on their loss of routine and structure as well as their loss of social interaction and even opportunities. As a school we recognise this and are determined to support our students as school life gradually returns to ‘normal’.
Pressures of modern life
Even without the added pressure of the pandemic, life for our young people can often prove overwhelming. Pressure of exams and the challenges of full access to social media has resulted in an increase in anxiety in young people as they strive to meet often unrealistic expectations or perceived expectations. As a school, we recognise this and our team work together to ensure support is available to help students when those pressures start to impact on their wellbeing.
Support for students in and out of school
Our devoted pastoral team are on hand daily to support students feeling anxious or overwhelmed. We have a dedicated, trained counsellor Ayse MacKenzie who works in school to support students. Our Learning Mentors have undertaken mental health training and are equipped in supporting students maintain a positive mental health.
We also have a designated email address firstname.lastname@example.org and mobile phone number 07551 493572 which is a confidential service if students don’t want to talk face to face or if there is something troubling them out of school hours. Students will receive a reply within 24 hours. Parents and carers also have access to this service.
In addition to our school counsellor and learning mentors, students also have access to their form tutor who they see every day, as well as their Head of Year and any of the members of the Designated Safeguarding Team.
Despite having multiple members of our pastoral team who are mental health trained, sadly, for some students our expertise is simply not sufficient to meet their needs. In these circumstances, the school works with parents and carers, GPs and other external agencies including CAMHS and sometimes Social Care, to ensure referrals to specialist services are made rapidly and supported by the school to help our young people access appropriate specialist provision as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, the school continues to work with the young person and their family, providing support to help them until external specialised support is in place.
Mental health as part of the curriculum
Mental Health and Wellbeing are topics which feature on the Personal Development (PSHE) programme for all year groups. and are addressed throughout the year in assemblies and form time. Students are encouraged to support each other and to talk about their emotions. They are regularly reminded that ‘it is okay not to be okay’ and are encouraged to ensure they have a ‘network of trusted adults’ who they feel they can turn to if they need help, or just someone to listen to them. This is part of the work with do on ‘Protective Behaviours’.
Senior Mental Health Lead
As part of the Government’s strategy, we are now in the process of training a member of staff in school to become the Senior Mental Health Lead. This is very much in its infancy stage as a new initiative but the role will be to ensure staff are equipped with the skills to support and manage pupils with mental health needs in their learning. This is a very exciting role and we look forward to sharing more details of this role with staff, students and parents and carers.