Following on from the last blog I am focussing on the new acronym SEMH or Social, Emotional and Mental Health difficulties. This was previously known as BESD or Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties. The difference now is its focus on mental health and hence why the last blog also shares the mental capacity act.
Myself and many educators over the past years have raised concern about the emotional well-being and mental health of pupils – reflecting that mental health affects all aspects of a child’s development including their cognitive abilities, their social skills and their emotional well-being. To find out more you can visit youngminds.org.uk/ where they have more. But here are some statistics;
- 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class .
- Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm.
- There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.
- More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
- Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
- Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression .
- 72% of children in care have behavioural or emotional problems – these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
- 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.
- The number of young people aged 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s.
- The proportion of young people aged 15-16 with a conduct disorder more than doubled between 1974 and 1999.
Within any role in school life where pastoral is within the remit, this is always a concern. Having been within the pastoral route and in many roles over the years, I have found that it is often those with poor behaviour that when one looks a little closer, (after ensuring that they are not just playing the naughty card) there is a possible mental health concern, but generally there is vulnerability as a given and as a result as educators part of our remit both socially and in law is to the vulnerable.
I am not professing this is easy not least because mental health concerns can relate to anxiety, eating disorders, self harming or harming others, low self-esteem and depression. For example this week I walked into a classroom to cover a lesson of year 11’s, the majority of whom after trying the naughty card realised that they just needed to get on with their work, but there were still two young people who displayed a huge difference between their verbal and written ability – which is always a red light to me I always wonder what support they need. There was also a child struggling in ethics when the topic was drugs, throughout he was constantly rapping the table and using his compass to draw on his arm, getting deeper and deeper? Following up on this I find that he is dealing with a parent involved with drugs, due to this the student absolutely hates drugs, but felt unable to talk about any of this during the lesson.
Vulnerable children often use words as their first line of defence, because if they get the other person child, young person or adult to go away then they never have to explain any further… and in their eyes wont get hurt again. The adult at the other end of it hears the words at a loud level, usually accompanied with anger, high pitch, accusatory and personally related comments and reacts to that, as I used to. Now though after so many experiences I wait until it is calm, maybe even days later and address it again, once they know you can be trusted, it is interesting how behaviour changes.
Recently we have all heard of media personalities who have and are going through the courts due to alleged historical abuse. How would we feel if we missed a child in our care that needed our support? I agree these are extreme circumstances, but the initial support that centres on mindfulness ( Mindfulness is described by The Mental Health Foundation as ‘a way of paying attention to the present moment, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga.) are just prescriptions for well being. Making them the only focus are just as concerning as ignoring the awful things that children go through and expecting them to just deal with it. We mus ourselves be non-judgemental and seek a solution to the problem not hope that one policy fits all.
Over my career I have experienced many kinds of vulnerabilities and it concerns me that we are moving into a time where more historic abuse is going to come to the fore for boys as well as girls as older people get more confident to speak out. Lets not carried away with these high profile cases because in our back yards the food banks are increasing daily the number of parcels given out … I ask how many children are already in poverty and in our classrooms?
Just a thought ….. If you didn’t know where your next meal was coming from would you care if you were level 6a or 6b or predicted a D and you were capable of an A?