I could sit here for hours and write about my favourite and most amazing educational moments from the days of doing GCSEs and A-Levels; but that is not the first thing that sprung to mind when I think of education. For I have never really seen school as just an educational institute, instead, it scarily became a home away from home, those white walls saw me for who I truly was; both at my highest and lowest points. The education I received from inspirational members of staff enabled me to develop as a human being; and to put it bluntly – they helped me to still be here today.
We must continue to progress with our understanding and treatment of those that struggle with mental illness.
The work that teachers and other support staff do in schools is good (from my experience) but students can be very limited to who they are professionally able to confide in due to safeguarding issues and/or lack of training.
It is fine to put designated staff in charge of those students struggling, but you cannot choose to bond with those you are forced to. The deep and emotional thoughts and feelings that students are struggling to manage are not that easy to convey, especially if it is to someone as scarily official as a ‘school counsellor’.
The main question I would like to ask the education boards is: why do we learn so much about how the body works physically in both biology and physical education but unless you opt to take psychology in your later teenage years, you are rarely taught anything about the dangers of mental health?
We are not progressing fast enough! We need more training for teachers and other support staff in spotting early signs of mental illness, along with lessons like sexual education lessons but based around mental health such as depression, anxiety and bipolar.
One of the core lessons we are taught throughout our education is language. Yet students do not realise that aspects of their language can shape their understanding of mental illness - for example, if a student was to be given maths homework and their response was “OMG, Maths homework! I am so depressed!”. Depression and the term depressed is not an expression for sadness or despair. It is a long term and terrifyingly isolating illness. I am not saying that everyone who has ever misused the word is a terrible person with a lack of understanding, but I would like them to be more aware of the language being used. If we were to do the same with our physical pain we would be called a hypochondriac for saying something like “OMG I’ve been shot”, after having some stomach cramps.
I must say a big thank you to the staff at my old school Q3 Academy. In particular an excellent PE teacher and member of senior management - who not only inspired me to progress to University but also helped me so much with my mental health. She took me from rock bottom to leaving school with my head held high. I hope everyone can have at least one member of staff at their school to guide them to a bright future.
'A teacher plants the seeds of knowledge sprinkles them with love and patiently nurtures their growth to produce tomorrow’s dreams.’ - Unknown
If you are currently a student, please do not be afraid to speak out to someone, they are here to help and you are not a burden. I decided in my final year to try and be a lot more open with my teacher and it worked! We would go for walks around school and have regular catch ups. It doesn’t have to be a big uncool deal to talk to a teacher about your feelings, I actually felt it was the best way. A teacher is someone you know, but do not have a 'pressured' bond (like family and friends), making them the perfect people to talk to.
They are not magicians but mostly comedians who are good at getting that smile from you when you need a boost in the day!
If you are a parent or anyone currently outside the education system - think back to your days in education, it is arguably the most defining point of your life.
If you are a teacher or anyone that works in a school/education setting. I would like to say thank you. You lovely lot don’t get the appreciation you deserve, you picked us up from our early years of life and dropped us off at the doors of our employers. The tears, tantrums, smiles, laughs... you’ve seen and heard it all, yet you are still there every day with a good morning and usually a cup of coffee. So thank you, and when you’re struggling after a tough, long day in the classroom please remember you are needed and wanted.
Written by Charlotte Nelson
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