Improving mental well-being and behaviour

I went to a great conference today looking at the links between well-being and behaviour.

Do you have students who are too anxious to learn? It's a real barrier to learning if they are too anxious to get to school or if they are too anxious to learn in class.

National statistics around teen anxiety cases are on the rise. Finding the right reason for the anxiety helps us as educators find the solutions. Is it school phobia or other relevant phobias? What if anxiety is complex as students will just replace one issue with another. Then there is generalised anxiety disorder, separation anxiety and social anxiety.

Once you identify the type of anxiety then there is a way to use an exposure step ladder with pictures and small achievable steps to success. Remember though to stick to the plan and not to skip steps up the ladder once trust has been established.

In schools we can often decided not to run the anxiety inducing challenges in schools. We need to remember not to back off as these occasions help students to bank successfully dealing with these issues for future anxiety inducing events.

If you are giving students a time out card remember to put instructions on the back about returning to learning and how they will be able to access learning upon returning to the learning environment. Time out cards need to hook students back to once they have recovered they need to continue to bridge the gap in their learning. The card is not an exit from learning but a card to find space to deal with their anxiety before returning to their core purpose in school. Learning.

Some students may benefit more from a classroom self-soothe kit such as hand cream. If you are using dot to dot sheets then remember to ask the student to use their non-dominant hand to complete the task. This will make their brain focus on the task instead of their anxiety. Thumb buddies are a good idea.

SRE/PHSE - The Power of Pleasure

Do you approach SRE and the subject of consent from the point of view of enabling students to be empowered? Do we provide our students with the capacity to look at how pornography is normalised in many mainstream media streams such as music videos / youtube etc? Have we ever played music videos without the music and started a conversation about the messages in the videos? Can students spot the dangerous messages in normalised music hits when it is removed from the melody and video?

If we started the dialogue with students about what brings them pleasure in their lives how empowering would it be? Do they understand the concept or do they feel shame at the idea of having pleasure in their lives? Students need time in lessons to ask questions and to explore their sense of self as well as their capacity to give and decline permission. Students need to explore the issues of power and realise that they have power to participate and power to keep information to themselves. Exploring their own boundaries of self.

Students need to develop confidence to communicate boundaries. If they have the confidence to refuse to participate in an activity then they will have the confidence to refuse consent too. All students can easily understand the idea of pleasure is not pressure. Are we teaching students the correct language in PSHE? Are we teaching emotional literacy, the ability to have confidence to discuss physical intimacy and emotional intimacy in safe secure settings?

Do our students have a place of self-worth and self-confidence to be empowered? Do we support them to challenge damaging messages in any media they see on a daily basis? Are students emotionally honest with themselves and their partners and their peers?

Causes and effects of shame in childhood.

We all hate feeling stupid - it''s shaming. The spectrum starts at embarrassment to toxic shame. Toxic shame is a fear based state often carried from childhood to adulthood. Shame gets passed down from parents too. It can help inform us what is being put into a child.

Toxic shame stunts our growth. Ordinary shame helps us develop. We learn from the boundaries of right and wrong. Toxic shame doesn't go away as it is internalised. You believe you are the problem and that you are a contamination. If you suffer from toxic shame you mustn't talk about it as you feel worthless but you don't want others to know.

Shame is a relational trauma. It's like a hot potato game inter-generationally. To deal with someone living with toxic shame; understand, recognise and respond with compassion.

Shame isolates but it wavers when noticed and listened to.

Responding to self-harm

Self-harm is an expression of personal distress - it is not an illness. Use a self harm resilience toolkit to assess the seriousness of self harm and identify the support you can provide.


  1. Superb blog Julie. Attention to these details is so crucial.

  2. Superb blog Julie. Attention to these details is so crucial.

  3. Thank you. Wellbeing impacts on behaviour, attainment, progress and success.


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