In a previous blog post, we discussed what mental health and resilience is and what good mental health and resilience looks like in children and young people. In today’s post, we will discuss why schools are well-placed to develop resilience and good mental health practices for students.
Resilience was described by Gilligan (1997) as:
Qualities which cushion a vulnerable child from the worst effects of adversity in whatever form it takes and which may help a child or young person to cope, survive and even thrive in the face of great hurt and disadvantage.
Although we may not (as school staff) be able to erase and challenge the adversities that occur in many of our students’ lives, through a resilience-based approach, we can shift our attention from problem-focused towards developing the strengths of our children and increasing their protective factors. All caring adults in school are well-placed to grow and develop these resilience factors and to build an ethos in school that is caring and nurturing. The probability of children developing a mental health disorder is dependent on their balance of risk and protective factors, which some staff may be aware of if they are a key adult for that child. It is therefore important that staff are aware of the influences not only of the risk factors, but also of the protective factors. If staff can commit to strengthening the protective factors already present in a child or young person’s life, staff can overcome their inability to remove adversity and become empowered to becoming part of a resilience-building organisation.
Although some school staff may see this focus on mental health and resilience as an additional pressure on their role, it is beneficial that schools consider the myriad of positive outcomes to supporting children with their mental health. Supporting mental health and resilience is crucial in increasing attendance, increasing positive behaviour, increasing sustained attention, reducing mental health problems, and improving wellbeing to name just a few benefits. It may be helpful to consider what you can control and what you can’t control as a member of school staff. If helping children and young people build their resilience sounds like a good starting point to supporting your whole school approach to mental health, be sure to take a look at our latest training course written and delivered by Educational Psychologist, Dr. Amy Sweet: Mental Health and Resilience.
Gilligan, R. (2002). Promoting resilience in children and young people. Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal, (5), 29-36.