To mark Youth Mental Health Day, the Mental Health Foundation has released several downloadable packs for pupils and teachers to help them better manage their mental health
With the number of young people living with a diagnosable mental health condition rising from 1 in 8 in 2018 to 1 in 6, it is clear that the mental health of children and young people has never been as important as it is right now.
Likely driven by the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, a deterioration in young people's mental health across the country is now being reflected in accelerating numbers of diagnoses for mental health issues, as well as growing waiting lists for support.
One of the key environments to truly make a difference to how young people manage their mental health is in their place of education where the influence of peers and authority figures can be vital support networks.
The Mental Health Foundation's Peer Education Project (PEP) is a secondary school-based initiative that makes use of this unique stage in young people's lives to help pupils better understand mental health and learn coping strategies for themselves.
Now, to mark Youth Mental Health Day, the Foundation is releasing several downloadable packs for pupils to learn from. Specifically, the packs provide guidance around connecting with nature, body image, kindness to others, and managing sleep. A pack has also been released for school staff on the topic of rest.
“The Mental Health Foundation is passionate about giving children and young people, as well as those around them, the skills and knowledge to protect and maintain their own mental health and support others to do the same," says Ruth Simmonds, PEP project manager at the Mental Health Foundation. "As schools reopen for the new academic year, we’re bringing the spotlight back on the mental health and wellbeing of pupils, and those supporting them within education.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
The Mental Health Foundation has been undertaking ongoing research throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to examine how it is affecting young people across the UK.
Working alongside researchers at University of Cambridge, Swansea University, the University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast, the Foundation found that teenagers and young adults were among those with the greatest deterioration in their mental wellbeing during the pandemic, due to the huge disruption it has caused to their school lives, social lives, and future prospects. Its research also found that young people were far more likely to feel lonely, anxious, hopeless, and suicidal compared with older adults.
“This has been a very challenging year for children and young people," adds Simmonds. "The pandemic and its consequences have affected almost all areas of personal, educational, and social life for children and young people – especially those experiencing major life transitions, like moving from primary to secondary school or on to university and work.
“Schools have huge potential for preventing mental health problems and so we are pleased to be helping them with this new, free material. PEP is an opportunity for schools to put mental health awareness and support as a priority from day 1, and its online platform provides all the resources required to introduce the project into the school curriculum."
Find out more about the Mental Health Foundation's new school resource packs here.
Find out more about the Foundation's ongoing research into the effects of the pandemic on young people's mental health here.
Written by Marco Ricci
Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health