In recognition of Children’s Mental Health Week between 5 and 11 February, Deputy Head (Pastoral) and DSL at Abingdon School, Helen Keevil, discusses how vital good communication is in managing students’ mental health.

Throughout my career, I have always put the care of young people at the heart of my decision making. Since joining Abingdon last September, I’ve focussed on gathering the views and opinions of our students; I’ve heard their laughter and been a shoulder to cry on; I’ve watched our drama productions, listened to our music concerts, observed lessons and attended our partnership events. One thing is for sure, all these young people have voices that matter and opinions which need to be heard.

Thankfully, long gone are the days when mental health was considered only in silo as a bi-product of a chronic illness. Today, we recognise that mental health also reflects the highs and lows of life and that teaching young people to navigate both good days and bad is key to positive mental health. Not only should we be preparing our young people in how to manage life’s knock backs, but we have a responsibility to do so. By helping them to listen and support each other as well as to communicate with clarity, we are helping to build a more understanding and resilient society. As a linguist, I appreciate and value the art of communication and I understand the vital role it plays in mitigating anxiety and helping to ensure positive mental health. As an educational practitioner, I see how important it is to uphold those communication channels between student, parent and school. Whoever one is communicating with and whether it’s at home, at school or in the workplace, oracy skills matter!

As does a robust PSHCE programme. This, together with excellent teaching and pastoral care, enables schools to weave mental health into the curriculum, reducing any stigma attached to it. It helps make young people more understanding of each other, increasing empathy and helping to promote a kinder, more inclusive society. This in turn enables our young people to be proud of who they are and the choices they make. All of which positively contributes to good mental health.

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