School counsellor Claire Pope-May is seeing an increase in students being referred to her and says that good mental health is as vital as good physical health for the young people in our care.
Claire applauds initiatives, like the recent World Mental Health Day, that brings the issue to the forefront of schools, so that more children can be aware of the services available. Claire, who is based at Brooke Weston Academy, works closely with her student support colleagues, tutors and social services to identify and support those that may need specialised or one-to-one counselling to help them through difficult issues, such as bereavement, life changes or simply to cope better with day-to-day life.
Claire said: ‘Mental health is as important as physical health and people in the medical profession, schools or family settings are aware that mental health affects you just as much as physical health and people are talking about issues more. There is a growing support network for those that need it and the Government and charities are putting lots of strategies in place and initiatives like World Mental Health Day help, although we need to emphasise that it is more than a one-day spotlight; there is year round support for children if they need it.
‘Student referrals often come from parents, tutors, or more occasionally, GPs. I have a great working relationship with all the tutors but students can also approach me directly, either face to face or by email if they want to know more details about what we offer. I work alongside two counsellors and external agencies, such as the child mental health team, to provide additional support for students who may need specialist bereavement counsellors or who have specific issues that need addressing. I don’t know whether it is because mental health is more talked about and socially accepted that we are getting more referrals or whether it is a modern way of living where it is OK to have a mental health issue or mental ill health.
‘Mental health is increasingly becoming more prominent in the media and that allows students to speak up about it, or know that there is support for them. We do have a waiting list for counselling so hopefully an increased profile for the counselling service will allow them to say ‘I don’t need to suffer in silence any more.’ We are lucky at Brooke Weston Academy as we have lot of support and good counselling provision in place and not every school can offer the same level of service. However, it is equally important to promote and talk about mental good health in a positive way as well.’