Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
Hello everyone. My name is Julia Clements. I am an Educational Psychologist and I work at Place2Be.
Tell us about the work Place2Be does?
Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity. We work in schools with children and young people and offer them mental health support for any issue – from bullying to bereavement, witnessing domestic violence to family breakdown. We also work with teachers and parent-carers as we know they are important in young people’s lives and can really help when a young person goes through tough times.
What does a typical day look like working at Place2Be?
I work in schools and meet with Place2Be teams and teachers to think about the needs of the children and young people in their care. This might include a discussion about how to help a year 7 student who is feeling down or anxious or how to support a whole year group who might be facing a challenge, such as year 11s taking their GCSEs.
What is the best thing about your job?
I love the variety. I work in schools all over London, the southeast of England and Wales. I love it when staff come up with simple ideas that help students feel better at school – this is often about listening to the young person and letting them know they are cared about.
What is the most challenging?
The travel! I cover hundreds of miles every week!
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. Can you tell us a little bit about what this is and when it started?
This is Place2Be’s fourthannual Children’s Mental Health Week. We know that children’s mental health is important every week of the year, but it can really help parent-carers, teachers and students to focus on this important area by having a dedicated Children’s Mental Health Week.
What activities are planned for the week?
The week kicked off with the launch of our video, featuring HRH The Duchess of Cambridge talking to children and young people about the importance of mental health. Some of her key messages were about the importance of feeling comfortable in our own skin, celebrating what makes us unique and being the best version of ourselves. Many of our schools are planning assemblies on the importance of being ourselves and following this up with a range of fun classroom activities.
How do you judge how successful the week has been?
Schools love to give us feedback about the week and what the children and young people have particularly enjoyed. We get photos of what has been going on in schools and we have an interactive map so that schools can see others who are also getting involved. During the week we often get loads of hits on our website and thousands of downloads of our free resources.
The theme this year is #BeingOurselves, promoting and celebrating uniqueness. How was this theme chosen?
We held an event with 80 pupils to find out the sorts of things that concern them and the things that matter to them the most. Many told us things like “You can’t be true to yourself in school because there are people that judge you.” We also looked at some of the reasons why children and young people come to Place2Be in school and we found that 8 out of 10 of them have low self-esteem, so, we thought it was right that this year’s theme be #BeingOurselves.
Why is it so important to be aware of children’s mental health?
All of us – babies, children, teenagers and adults – have mental health. Just like our physical health, we need to learn to look after our mental health when we are young. If we learn to do this early, we will have better coping skills to help us manage life’s ups and downs. A recent study indicated that some adults under-estimate when children are having problems with their mental health – so we need to continually raise awareness.
What more can be done to support children, schools and families in caring for and maintaining good mental health?
One of the key things for good mental health is having healthy relationships. This includes having a healthy relationship with yourself – being able to think about your strengths and qualities and use these when times get tough. It’s also important to have healthy relationships with others – be a good friend to others and to ask for help from friends or family when you need it. Schools and families have an important role in creating an environment where healthy relationships are encouraged and thrive.
Is there a particular age or level of development where mental health issues most commonly present themselves?
Children and young people can have difficulties with their mental health at any age. However, there are times when they might be particularly vulnerable. This includes when they go through big changes, like going to secondary school, or when they experience loss, like if their parents separate, or when they experience bereavement, like when someone close to them dies.
Imagine you can go back to visit 14-year-old you. What advice would you give?
I would tell my 14-year-old self that people love you because of who you are, not what you achieve.
Where can people go who want help or more information?
You can find out more about how to get involved and support Children’s Mental Health Week at www.ChildrensMentalHealthWeek.org.uk
And where can people find Place2Be around the web?