We’ve had a rough couple of years, haven’t we? We don’t think anyone will look back on 2020/2021 and say ‘oh yeah, had such a great time that year’. It’s been pretty difficult, and it’s been even more difficult for young people. Being young can be challenging at the best of times, throw in a pandemic and it’s just… well, you know what we’re talking about. We’ve all lived it together.
And that’s not to say life gets any easier just because you’re an adult. Mental health affects all of us, at any age. It’s the single most important thing to take care of because it affects absolutely everything, every aspect of your life. The mental health charity, Mind, says that every year one in four of us will experience a mental health problem .
As educators, you’ll know it’s important to take care of yourself first so that you have the capacity to take care of your young people. Checking in with your own mental health, taking the time to rest when you need to, to say no when you need to, will enable you to be at your best for your pupils. The Mental Health Foundation offers practical advice to help you do this .
For young people who find that school is a place they’d rather not be, going back now can cause all their turbulent feelings to come back. You may find that they are less engaged, less talkative or maybe they’re the opposite, even more rowdy than they were before. It’s tough being young, trying to figure out where you belong in the world… what you might want to do when you leave school. Sometimes there isn’t anyone to talk to. Sometimes everything can feel really, really wrong. This is when you get the chance to make a difference in someone’s life, just by being there and checking in with them.
Taking the time to talk to your young people, to ask them how they actually feel, will probably be really appreciated. You might get an ‘I’m fine’ response but dig a little deeper, ask them again. Have a general chat about what’s going on, especially now that they’ve gone back to school. It may take a while to break through to the young person you’re trying to talk to but at Say It With Your Chest, we recommend persevering. You’ll feel so rewarded when you get them to open up and talk to you.
Here are some useful tips and tricks to get your young people talking again and back on the right track:
- Talk to them about their interests. What kind of music are they into? What tv shows have they been watching? Is there a particular sport they’re interested in?
- Don’t just say ‘get over it’ or ‘cheer up’ – you’ll know as an adult that these kinds of phrases are never particularly helpful.
- Make it clear that they are not in trouble – if they think they are they’ll only shut down.
- Be open and supportive. You don’t need to compare their experience to yours, just listen to what they have to say.
- Reassure them that you won’t judge them. Enable them to feel that they can talk to you without fear of judgement.
More of these tips can be found at Mental Health First Aid England .
At Say It With Your Chest, we believe in empowering young people. We offer workshops and teacher training to assist you and your staff. Check out our services to see how we can help you get through to your young people. We’re here to support you.
 Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/returning-school-after-lockdown/looking-after-mental-health-for-teachers
 Mental Health First Aid England https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/resources/for-universities/tips-for-talking-to-young-people.pdf