5 mental health issues students may face this summer

There’s plenty that teachers can do to reduce the likelihood of pupils suffering mental health problems this summer
22nd June 2021, 11:16am

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5 mental health issues students may face this summer

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/5-mental-health-issues-students-may-face-summer
Children's Mental Health: 5 Common Issues In The Summer Holidays - & What Teachers Can Do To Help

The past year and a half have shown that school is about much more than academic achievement. Remote learning taught us all that school provides routine, structure and exposure to positive social norms.

When schools close their doors - whether due to Covid-19 or just school holidays - the one in six young people with mental health issues are hardest hit.

 At MeeToo - a peer support app where young people can share their worries - we see an escalation in posts around five issues every single summer. 

Here we highlight the major areas to watch out for, and what teachers can do in the final weeks of term to prepare their pupils for the long break ahead.

Children’s mental health: Issues that can affect pupils over the summer holiday

Loneliness

In school, young people are surrounded by people to talk to, but that is not a given in the holidays. Social media snaps of classmates together can exacerbate feelings of isolation.

What can teachers do now?

Before the holidays, reiterate the importance of inclusivity, kindness and reaching out to each other over the summer. Get students to research local events, activities and meet-ups over the summer and add them to the school calendar, encouraging them to socialise.

Lack of routine

Routines can completely fall apart in the holidays. Downtime is helpful, but spending days aimlessly scrolling social media is not.

What can teachers do now?

Explain how structure supports mental health, and help them set weekly goals to combat boredom and depression. Get students to pick a skill that they want to master or improve over the summer and encourage them to keep a video journal to log their progression over the holidays that they can present in September.

Use school email or social media accounts to suggest optional learning activities at regular intervals throughout the holidays - but use free scheduling tools so you can plan now, and have a well-deserved rest over the holidays. 

Self-harm

Young people who self-harm avoid asking for help, in case their coping mechanism is taken away. Without friends and teachers around, such harmful behaviour is easier to hide. 

What can teachers do now?

Our data shows that disclosing self-harm anonymously within a supportive peer community gives young people the confidence to open up to someone in real life. Signpost online support resources on the school website.

Disordered eating

MeeToo has seen a 263 per cent increase in posts about weight, body image and diet amongst 14- to 16-year-olds during lockdown. Research shows that social support is critical for people with eating disorders, but those with working parents can be alone for most of the day during holidays.

What can teachers do now?

Encourage students to check in with each other over the summer and signpost anyone you are worried about to resources like Beat’s website, which runs scheduled chat rooms, or the MeeToo app, which features recovery stories from young people.

Anxiety

Our data show that anxiety levels spike at the beginning of every new term. This may seem to suggest that school makes young people anxious, but digging into the data reveals underlying issues, like changes in friendships over the holidays and worries about next term.

What can teachers do now?

Make time for children to share their worries about next year before the holidays start. Whether it’s seating arrangements, uniform worries or losing friendships, sharing concerns with their peers in a safe space like tutor time could stop anxieties spiralling over the summer, and will open up a conversation about checking in with each other.

Suzi Godson is the co-founder of MeeToo

For more information, join MeeToo’s webinar ‘How will you support your students’ mental health over the summer? on Thursday, 24 June at 4pm

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