We support Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and while prioritising mental health is more than just a week, it really is all year round and for the rest of your life, MHAW is a great way to kick-start the conversation again.
Your mental health is a number one priority, it’s as important as your physical health, which is why here at TVA we have David Miller. Mr Miller is a trained Mental Health First Aider and also our Student Services Manager the role works with our Wellbeing Ambassador, Alice Hancock.
Where can students find you in school?
I am based on the ground floor of the Student Services Building – my office is behind the Student Services Desk. If I’m not there, I may be supporting students around the Academy building but I always tell my colleagues at the desk where I’m going!
Are you available to parents too, for advice on how to talk to their children?
Of course! My role involves lots of contact with parents and I believe working in partnership with parents is essential in order to promote wellbeing in our young people. I always remember that I’m a parent too but I don’t pretend to the perfect parent or have the monopoly on parenting knowledge. Parents know their children best but I am always happy to talk through any concerns our parents may have on supporting their children.
What does mental health mean to you?
There are many “experts” who have claimed to have the perfect definition of mental health but for me, “mental health” is all about how you feel, think and act. Sometimes we feel “great” and we cope well with our day to day activities and the “hurdles” life sometimes throws at us. On other occasions, we feel “low” and everything seems to be a huge struggle.
Mental health does not remain in a fixed position, just as our physical health can change on a day to day basis. I believe passionately that our mental health is as important as our physical health and I’d love our young people to believe that it really is “okay to not be okay!”
How important is it that schools are aware of mental health and why?
Most people are absolutely comfortable in talking about their physical health: young people come to us in Student Services every day telling us that they feel ill, sick, hurt or in pain. Most have no issues talking about it and know that by talking about it, we can help them by providing immediate First Aid and arranging for further help if needed.
Young people, are not always so ready to adopt the same approach to their Mental Health. We know that young people are often scared to be judged when talking through their feelings and worries and are afraid of being “labelled” with a mental health condition.
Given that over half of mental ill health starts by the age of 15 and 75% develops by the age of 18, schools have a vital responsibility to educate young people about maintaining good mental health and wellbeing, as well as to recognise that something is “not quite right” with their students.
Young people spend the majority of their days in school. Schools must have the right blend of staff expertise, a supportive culture and the resources to help students who need support with their mental health.
Young people are more likely to recover and learn to manage their mental health if they have early intervention and feel that they have the support of adults they trust. If schools “miss” these signs, young people continue into their young adulthood still unable to enjoy positive wellbeing and without the “tools” needed to manage their emotions and feelings.
How do you help your students with mental health?
At The Victory Academy we take a whole Academy approach to supporting Mental Health. We value the opportunity to discuss and teach our young people how to manage their mental health and wellbeing through the curriculum, assemblies and by more personal 1: 1 and group interventions.
Our caring pastoral staff do their utmost to get to know their students and to build trust and rapport to ensure that young people feel comfortable sharing their feelings and thoughts. Sometimes, our young people thrive when offered safe 1:1 space to talk and to have regular “check ins” to monitor their progress. Trained Emotional and Mental Health First Aid staff are on hand to support our students and to refer on to other agencies when needed.
For others, we have a range of interventions tailored to particular aspects of mental health. This academic year, we have run specialist interventions for self-harm, anxiety, bereavement support, the Social Use of Language and Anger Management. In addition, we have engaged a range of specialist counsellors who run 1:1 sessions for students both virtually and in-house.
We are particularly delighted to be one of the first schools in Kent to host a new team of Trainee Mental Health Practitioners, who will offer additional in-house support to our students for a range of targeted wellbeing and mental health issues. This extra capacity for pupil support will ensure that professional targeted interventions can be applied quickly and ensures that fewer young people struggle without support.
We also recognise that many of our students like to help themselves with their mental health and wellbeing. The provision of safe and reliable information is key and we have improved the information available to students via a dedicated section of our website, as well as provide reading material and contacts in reception and in our Student Services building.