Mental Health and Young People: All In The Mind?

Children studyingWe all meet  some brilliantly inspiring characters in East Lothian Schools  and I don’t just mean teachers.

Some of the young people we teach are struggling to come to terms with illness and become anxious about falling behind in school work.

Occasionally they look well  but their illnesses are of a psychological nature and they need all the help we can give to ensure that they are well supported to achieve and reach their potential.

Being unable to attend school means young people lose their social contacts, their sense of belonging, confidence and self-esteem.

It’s devastating to have a physical, sometimes life-threatening illness, for a young person but with this kind of diagnosis comes sympathy from teachers and pupils. However, when the diagnosis concerns mental health, people can find it difficult to understand and sympathise with the pupil.

‘ Are they just being difficult, lazy or over-protected by parents?’ as teachers we might ask.

But a lack of trust can add to the distress and erode further the confidence of the young person.

How can we provide them with access to the opportunities available to those who are able to attend school?

An Online Toolkit for frontline workers has been commissioned by www.headsupscotland.com and their website has some useful links.

I was privileged to be asked to support a high achieving P.7 last year because he was overcome with a mental health difficulty which he will need to manage for the rest of his life. By working with flexibility in where and how we worked, the pupil’s family and I built up trust.

With the curriculum support of his primary school he kept up to date with his peers. An enhanced transition, supported by an enthusiastic SfL teacher, at North Berwick High, saw the young man settle in well to S.1 and it was a joy to see his life back on track.

He will never be the most sociable of people- he hates being touched, but he is keen to learn and will feel fulfilled in his studies. The whole family are so relieved!

For primary schools a useful resource might be the series on “Your Emotions “by Hodder Children’s Books

Schools are more to young people than we sometimes realise. We can make a huge difference to their lives when we work collaboratively to make inclusion work.

Other contacts:  http://www.enquire.org.uk/

                          CAMHS

                          jmacrae@elcschool.org.uk

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