Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 – Classroom resources and activities
Tackle some serious issues and open a dialogue about mental health in your classroom with these resources…
- by Teachwire
What is Children’s Mental Health Week?
Organised by national charity Place2Be, Children’s Mental Health Week is all about focusing on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
It’s an important issue, with one in six young people currently experiencing a mental health problem.
When is Children’s Mental Health Week 2023?
Children’s Mental Health Week takes place between 6th-12th February 2023. The theme is ‘Let’s Connect’.
Other mental health events
Jump to a section:
- Place2Be resources
- KS1 and 2 activity packs
- Mental health lead year planner
- Taskmaster Education
- Assembly and activities for KS1 and 2
- Primary mental health training resources
- 7 ways to boost mental health for everyone in school
- Making mental health a year-round priority
- Films about mental health
Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 resources
This free lesson plan for KS1 and KS2 explores ways pupils can become more connected to both their peers and their community in fulfilling and meaningful ways. It also touches on connecting with yourself to overcome life’s challenges.
The lesson covers using nature to improve connections, what a growth mindset is and how to use positive self-talk. Pupils will also learn about the importance of kindness and how to put it into action.
This year, Place2Be is encouraging children, young people, and adults to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways.
These positive social connections are vital to a young person’s mental health and emotional development. Without them, we can feel isolated and lonely, leading to a negative impact on mental wellbeing.
The free resources were created in collaboration with Place2Be’s mental health experts and educational psychologists for use in primary and secondary schools. They contain assembly guides, group activities, top tips and videos.
Key Stage 1 and 2 activity packs
Explore emotions with KS1 and KS2 children with this free bumper activities pack from Plazoom. Help pupils to identify different emotions using the image and word cards and discuss examples of when children, or their friends or family, have experienced these emotions.
You’ll find question cards and question stems included to prompt conversations about what positive steps children can take if they experience a particular emotion.
Activities for both KS1 and KS2 are included, with teacher advice for how to use the resources in the classroom.
Mental health lead year planner
If you’re the designated mental health lead at your school it’s vital that you have a plan that feeds into your school development plan (SDP). Use this free, printable template to lay out your yearly tasks.
Taskmaster Education and Place2Be are partnering for Children’s Mental Health Week 2023, in a bid to get children across the country puzzle and problem solving.
During Children’s Mental Health Week 2023, Alex Horne will set daily tasks for children to do at school or at home. There will also be a treasure hunt, with daily clues to solve.
If solved correctly over the week, schools, families, or other groups will make it onto the Wall of Fame and have a chance to win the Taskmaster Treasure Hunt Grand Prize.
Assembly and activities for KS1 and KS2
This whole-school resource from Plazoom is based around a theme of connecting with others. Children will find out why connecting with other people is vital for our wellbeing.
The pack contains an assembly to introduce the theme, plus activities with teaching notes for both KS1 and KS2.
Primary mental health training resources
Join Dr Katy Cole and Ashley Grinham-Smith in a free webinar on Tuesday 7th February 2023 to explore ways to support mental health and wellbeing in primary school settings.
The webinar will cover anxiety and how it presents within school, or through school avoidance. You’ll hear about ideas for making school feel like a safe space for learning.
The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session where you’ll have the chance to have your questions answered live.
Register to watch live or to receive a recording after the event.
You can also watch a previous webinar about the role school leaders can play in ensuring good mental health and wellbeing for all.
Senior mental health lead training
Senior mental health lead training: a whole school approach is a DfE quality-assured online training course that teaches you how to implement a whole-school approach to mental health.
If you work in an eligible state-funded school or college in England, you can receive full funding for this training from the DfE.
How to pick a counsellor for your school
Catherine Roche, chief executive of children’s mental health charity Place2Be, lays out what to look for when selecting a mental health counsellor…
Teachers aren’t mental health experts and no one should expect you to be. But you need the skills to keep an eye on the mental health of your class and spot problems early.
It’s also important that you know where to turn if more serious issues present themselves.
Training initiatives like our Mental Health Champions programme can also help you focus on making changes that make your school more mentally healthy overall.
The Mentally Healthy Schools website is a one-stop shop for resources that primary schools can use to support emotional wellbeing.
As well as training, you should be able to call on advice and support from a professional.
At Place2Be our in-school service provides what one teacher called “the longer term, systemic approach as opposed the spur of the moment, six-week anger management course”.
Here are some important points to consider when choosing a counsellor for your school:
- Read the DfE’s guidance for schools about setting up counselling services. Also look at the counselling section of the Mentally Healthy Schools website.
- Ask other local school staff about their experience and what they recommend. Could you group together to commission a counselling service?
- Check out what services are available in your community, including agencies, charities, organisations and individuals.
- Make sure any counsellor you employ is registered and accredited with one of the recognised professional bodies, such as the BACP or UKCP. This ensures they have met certain training and qualification standards, are working to an ethical framework, have supervision requirements and are subject to a complaints procedure. You could even use the search engines on the BACP or UKCP websites.
- Check the counsellor has training in working with children, is confident working with parents and carers and is qualified to at least Diploma level.
7 ways to boost mental health and wellbeing for everyone in your school
Dr Margot Sunderland, director of The Centre for Child Mental Health (CCMH) and co-director of Trauma Informed Schools UK, shares advice for how leaders can create a school environment that’s beneficial for everyone’s mental health, including their own…
No doubt about it – senior leadership is a difficult job. There aren’t many tougher than ensuring the school is a mentally healthy environment in which to teach, learn and prosper.
And there’s your own mental wellbeing to consider.
Again, no easy task. An Education Support Partnership Teacher Wellbeing Index reported a dramatic increase in the mental health problems of headteachers, with 45% of senior leaders feeling stressed most or all of the time.
You play a vital role in creating a happy, nurturing learning space for staff and pupils, so it’s crucial that you know how to improve and maintain mental health, both for your own sake and that of others. So here are some tips to help you.
1 | Consider therapy or counselling
How can you support teachers and pupils if your own mental health is poor? You must prioritise your own psychological support.
Counselling sessions where you can off-load, weep and rage to a trained professional will reduce your toxic stress. It will improve your own state of mind and ensure that you can support others’ mental health.
2 | Valued teachers
Make sure your teachers feel appreciated for their contribution to the school. Research proves feeling valued contributes to good mental health, while shame triggers the same reaction in the body as a physical injury.
A practical way to show teachers you value them is to reward their successes and issue commendations to senior staff. Knowing that your hard work matters and is appreciated is a morale boost for anyone.
3 | Help ‘lone’ teachers
If teachers don’t have regular access to a teaching assistant, this can mean they are a ‘single parent’ of as many as 30 children.
Teaching solo is isolating. Loneliness triggers the panic/grief system in the brain which can lead to panic attacks.
To help these ‘lone teachers’ feel supported and emotionally regulated by other teachers, organise regular talk-time groups where staff feel comfortable enough to discuss feelings of impotence, loneliness, abandonment and lack of recognition.
You can also seek creative solutions to improve staff-pupil ratios by recruiting volunteers or teaching apprentices.
Another idea is advertising for teaching assistants – volunteer parent or grandparent helpers – who have proved to be a warm, empathic and calming presence for teachers and pupils.
4 | Bring down toxic stress
A quick ‘there-there’ chat in the corridor before a teacher’s next lesson won’t be sufficient to reduce toxic stress levels.
It’s important to ensure staff have daily access to an oxytocin (anti-stress neurochemical) releasing environment on a daily basis. They also need time to use it built into the school timetable.
Provide them with ‘reflect and restore rooms’ – they aren’t expensive to set up. Include the following elements to trigger oxytocin and opioids (euphoria-inducing enkephalins and endorphins):
- warm lights (uplighters)
- soothing music
- lovely smells
- comforting fabric
- external warmth (such as electric blankets)
- open fire DVD
Also remember children with troubled home lives may not arrive at school in an emotional state conducive to learning. There are many fun and easy ways to reduce the toxic stress levels of vulnerable pupils.
The following interventions – best implemented at the beginning of the school day – support learning. They also protect against toxic stress-induced physical and mental illness:
- accompanied drumming
- tai chi
- meditation rooms
- sensory play
- spending time with animals or outside.
5 | Emotionally-available adults
Social buffering – daily and easy access to at least one specific emotionally available adult – is a key factor in preventing mental ill-health in children.
Ensure all vulnerable pupils have a designated adult in whom to confide and that they know where and when to find that member of staff.
If the child doesn’t take to the designated adult, find an alternative person.
6 | Reduce exam stress
To reduce exam stress – particularly around pressure points such as SATs – emphasise to pupils that their self-worth and the worth of others can’t be measured by test results.
Communicate this throughout the whole school so that all pupils receive this message.
Formally value individual children for their own special qualities and strengths. This could include kindness, generosity, perseverance and explorative drive.
7 | Positive discipline
As we know, discipline such as isolation rooms don’t work and instead tend to harm pupils with mental health problems or a high adverse childhood experience (ACE) score.
Countless research shows that isolation, sensory deprivation and feeling shamed is detrimental to mental and physical health.
In contrast, using disciplinary methods such as restorative conversations is highly effective in decreasing behavioural problems and exclusions. They also help develop pro-social skills and the lifelong ability to manage stress.
Making mental health a year-round priority
Yvonne Kekeliadis, founder of Brightstarz, explores how to use the momentum of Children’s Mental Health Week to bolster students’ self-esteem and confidence…
After a disruptive few years for schools, many students are now facing an uphill battle to regain confidence in their academic and personal lives. This is on top of the growing issue of young people facing sharp declines in their confidence and self-esteem as they get older.
What is confidence?
One of the leading issues many young people face in building their confidence is not knowing exactly what confidence means.
It’s a term that’s regularly conflated with a tendency to show off, but young people can and should be taught to be proud of their achievements, and supported in being happy with who they are.
“Young people can and should be taught to be proud of their achievements”
Children and young people sometimes don’t understand what it takes to be confident. It doesn’t require you to be the best at everything, but rather be proud of what makes you different.
At the heart of mental health support around confidence and self-esteem should be an effort to teach young people what it means to believe in themselves.
Challenges to confidence
It’s also important to be aware of the fact that many young people can face competing challenges to their self-esteem. These challenges will differ from student to student, and likely change over time as new trends arise.
The evolution of social media, for example, has profoundly changed the way in which young girls now develop low self-esteem regarding the way they look.
Previously, schools might have tried to teach their students not to compare themselves to portrayals in films or magazines, given their artificiality and inaccurate depictions of real life
With social media, however, many young people are failing to apply those lessons to the posts they see each day. This is despite the fact that those Instagram posts are more often than not just as carefully constructed and edited as any magazine photo shoot.
These ever-changing challenges mean it’s imperative that you stay up to date with the latest trends impacting upon the confidence of young people.
Overcoming failure and building resilience
An important aspect of building self-confidence is overcoming the fear of failure.
Throughout their time in education, it’s inevitable that children and young people will occasionally fail at a task – that’s how we learn.
To overcome this fear, students need to learn about the positives of failure. They need to see it as an opportunity to learn something new, rather than it being a negative indictment of their ability.
“It’s imperative that schools stay up to date with the latest trends impacting upon the confidence of young people”
This focus on being scared to fail is core to the support young people will need in the lead-up to their exams.
In our self-confidence workshops, we draw upon examples from popular culture and the lives of our participants to show the minimal impact one single failure can have on the rest of a person’s life.
We teach students about the ways in which they can look at failure as an obstacle that can be overcome. We also cover how to recognise learnings they can then take forward.
Supporting students in developing a more positive mindset towards both failure and success is a vital skill which will stand them in good stead for all aspects of later life and adulthood.
Mental health and wellbeing efforts remain a year-round issue for schools. Take a look at your school’s wellbeing provision. Ensure you’re offering students a helping hand that can boost their confidence and really help them learn how to tackle challenges to their self-esteem, instead of simply raising awareness of the issue.
Films about mental health
The problem with mental health is that we can all only experience the world through our own minds. So it can be difficult to explain issues to someone who has no experience of it themselves – especially young people.
This is where fiction (and non-fiction) can help bridge that gap, to help others understand and empathise with anyone afflicted with mental health issues and the effects it can have on the people around them.
We all know that film and TV isn’t always the most sensitive medium for portraying these various disorders, but there are many movies and documentaries out there created with sensitivity and subtlety that can be wonderful for improving empathy in the viewer, as well as raising awareness about mental health and wellbeing. Here are some recommendations:
Note: These films will deal with difficult issues so please research to ensure suitability to your class.
Movies about depression
- The Virgin Suicides (alternatively, try the Turkish remake/reinterpretation Mustang)
- The Hours
- It’s Kind of a Funny Story
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Anxiety and stress
- Two Days, One Night
- God Help The Girl
- Still Alice
- A Beautiful Mind
For younger viewers
- Inside Out