On 26 May, mental health and wellness clinic The Soke hosted an event for headteachers, pastoral leads and other faculty members from leading independent schools in and around London.
The event was led by The Soke’s team of children and family practitioners and was designed to encourage an open and informal discussion at which they answered questions from teachers, many of whom are dealing with the increasingly complex mental health needs of their student population.
… a collaborative approach between schools, mental healthcare providers and parents is the optimal model for working with children and young people to overcome their issues and develop resilience in a safe and sustainable manner – Ed Lowther, head of Soke Education
The Q&A session was coordinated by The Soke’s multi-disciplinary team of children and adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists, who offered their expert insight and guidance to teachers from some of London’s leading independent schools including: Fulham Prep, Thomas’s Battersea, Queensgate, Ibstock Place, Garden House, MPW and Bute House.
Some of the key take-homes and learnings from the session include:
- Post-trauma response for teachers needed
Most teachers have not had the requisite training but have been expected (often by parents) to carry the weight of the mental health crisis amongst children and adolescents in the school’s care. Many are now suffering from burn-out and we are increasingly likely to see the consequences of their somewhat thankless endeavours over the coming months and years. Schools must take steps to provide a post-trauma response as well as regular, ongoing mental health care not just for their student but also their staff population.
- Systematic approach needed
Children/adolescents – and their parents – are increasingly demanding clinical diagnoses for behavioural issues that may often be the result of situational rather than physiological issues. It is therefore imperative that every individual is assessed systemically, rather than have their symptoms viewed or responded to in isolation.
- Identify what lies behind the behaviour
Copy-cat incidents are undoubtedly on the rise (eg, self-harming and disordered eating). Many young people who are displaying superficial symptoms of the behavioural issues of our times are being dismissed as inauthentic; it’s important to look behind the behaviour to see what need exists and is being fulfilled by either joining in, fitting in or gaining attention. By looking at the symptom rather than the cause, we’re failing to mend the problem at its roots.
- Avoid ‘laziness of labelling’
Children can move on from trauma (with the right help) and from trauma comes resilience and creativity. We mustn’t give in to the laziness of labelling in such a way that a child feels permanently marked by an incident/event or diagnosis.
Ed Lowther, head of Soke Education, commented: “We were delighted to welcome head teachers and pastoral leads from many of the leading independent schools in London, to discuss a range of questions relating to the mental health and wellbeing of students today. It was also an opportunity for us to talk about why a collaborative approach between schools, mental healthcare providers and parents is the optimal model for working with children and young people to overcome their issues and develop resilience in a safe and sustainable manner.
“Our team of expert CAMHS practitioners were able to respond knowledgeably to the wide range of questions that were put to them by the evening’s attendees, and some – such as educational psychologist, Hannah Abrahams who herself came to the world of mental health following a career as a teacher – were able to share stories and understandings derived from both of those perspectives, as well as that of a mother dealing with many of the topics that are at the forefront of every parent’s mind in 2022.”
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