It was lovely to see so many students wearing something yellow for the #HelloYellow campaign on Wednesday as part of the World Mental Health Awareness campaign. Like many people of my generation, I have gradually got more hooked on social media, and mental health is clearly an issue that is addressed more often than it used to be. I found myself reading a blog on Wednesday entitled something like “we all suffer from mental health”, and thinking that our mental health varies as much as our physical health. No one would say that they will never suffer a form of physical health set-back, so why consider mental health any different?
I am sure the next part applies equally to many adults, but nonetheless this is how I look at the pressures on young people. Do I think students suffer from more pressure nowadays, than when I started the profession? Yes. However, I don’t think it is a simple as saying that it down to school pressures, or social media, or family pressures, or media portrayals, or any other issues that get raised. I have looked at many students over time and seen their inner anguish, and I do believe that students are now more willing to discuss issues rather than “bottling up”, and in that regard social media campaigns have probably helped students in talking about issues. Equally, adversity has always affected individuals, and it is important that every individual builds their inner resilience to cope with adversity.
Certainly none of us are perfect, but I did try to offer advice to a young teacher the other day about making sure that students don’t know too much of your mood: they come to school for stability and certainty, and therefore as professionals we have to try to be even-handed regardless of any inner turmoil we may be experiencing. I used the hypothetical example of me receiving a phone call I didn’t like on a Monday morning and allowing that to influence the shape and tone of the institution over the next week, that would be irresponsible; therefore, we have to learn to manage our mental health as carefully as our physical health. As parents, we try to model the same to our children, so that we don’t burden them with the weight of our anxieties.
So whilst I agreed to the day on Wednesday, proposed by a student a few weeks ago, because I think it is important that we do all talk about mental health and place it on the same level as physical health; equally it is important that we condition our students (your children) to cope with the pressures of adult life.