There’s a strong argument to say youth mental health services were struggling prior to the COVID pandemic. The past couple of years has seen demand for mental health services rocket upwards. How are schools and parents supposed to cope with this? Youth mental health charity Beyond has recognised this need and will shortly be holding a Schools Mental Health and Wellbeing festival to help parents, teachers or anyone working in schools and colleges.
The event builds on the success of last year’s festival which attracted 1,200 schools. The festival, which is being produced in partnership with TES, features sessions on resilience, mindfulness and mental wellbeing. In recognition of the fact parents need help as well as education professionals, a ‘parent’s panel’ has been created which will consider how parents should look after their own mental health (more info below).
The best bit? The School’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Festival is taking place online on February 9, 2022. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can register and participate (see below for registration details).
Beyond’s Chief Executive Officer Louisa Rose took some time out from organising the festival to tell me about it. Here’s what she had to say.
Beyond is organising a ‘Schools Mental Health and Wellbeing’ festival in February. It sounds like a great venture. Can you tell readers a bit more about it?
Now and Beyond is the UK’s only mental health festival for educational settings. We created it in response to the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of the UK student population. We essentially put out a call to the UK mental health community and they answered. Everyone just wanted to help.
We approved over 350 mental health and wellbeing experts from all corners of the UK who agreed to run free online sessions for local schools on 3 February, 2021. We created lesson plans with some of the UK’s most ground-breaking mental health organisations. And we ran a full day of live, all access programming with celebrity guests.
In total, 1,200 schools and colleges took part and we were able to reach half a million students, teachers and parents during lockdown February 2021. And so we’re doing it all over again on February 9, 2022. It’s a unique opportunity for schools to access free support and resources during such an uncertain time, when the prevalence of mental ill health is so high. It’s important not to forget about the caretakers whose resilience is hugely challenged during this time too, so we run a live wellbeing workshop for teachers with the Anna Freud Centre and a parenting panel, hosted by journalist and author Lorraine Candy.
You’re running a session called How To Parent Post-Pandemic with Lorraine Candy, broadcast journalist Kate Silverton, mental health professional Gurpreet Singh (@SikhDad) and Judah Raheem of Place2Be and Parenting Smart. Why do you think this session is so important?
We know that the mental health of young people across the UK has been dramatically affected by the pandemic. It’s easy to forget that those who support young people also have their own mental health to maintain. Parents and carers have been impacted by the additional pressures brought on by lockdowns, home schooling and working from home. This session brings together people from different communities and circumstances. The hope is that every parent or carer watching will be able to identify with the experiences shared and in turn, feel less alone in their journey.
I believe you have made some interesting comments in the past about the importance of parents looking after their own mental health if they are to look after their children’s?
I often use the analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before your child’s. It’s counter intuitive to put ourselves first, but crucial in order to fit our child’s mask. Patience and fuses are tested when we’re in heightened states of mental distress. Without looking out for our own mental health, we’ll find it much more challenging to look after the mental health of our children.
It looks like we are about to enter the third year of the COVID pandemic, another year of disruption for us all with children potentially losing out the most. There really hasn’t been a better time for us all to think about mental health and look after those around us is there?
Couldn’t agree more. The positive to come out of the pandemic is that mental health is at the centre of public discourse in a way that has never been seen before. Stigma and taboo are being challenged by the sheer volume of mental health discussions. But it’s essential that also use this as an opportunity to act. We need to start to implement solutions that know works.
What would be your main three tips for parents to ensure they are looking after their mental health?
Talk: Share with fellow parents or carers about how you’re doing. Even when you’re doing well. Talking isn’t just for when we’re struggling.
Manage your expectations. Parenting is tough, let alone during a pandemic. (I’m still working on this one. It’s probably the thing I find the hardest to do as a parent)
Speak to your GP. Whenever you’re concerned about yours or your child’s mental health, speak to your GP.
Do you feel families where parents are raising neurodiverse children get the support they need?
No, just last week I was told of a ten year old on a four year waiting list for an Autism assessment. Unacceptable doesn’t cover it.
The Schools Mental health and Wellbeing festival takes place on 9 February and will be livestreamed. To register your interest, visit the Beyond website. For more health, wellbeing and mental health content on Dadbloguk, click here.