Navigating online mental health resources with Now and Beyond
In my role as the CEO of youth mental health charity Beyond, the past two years have highlighted two things for me: never before has there been a greater need for mental health support across the education sector and; never before has the lack of access to mental health resources been so obvious.
Over the past few months, our tiny, but ambitious charity and it’s phenomenal volunteer community has been hard at work once more preparing the UK’s only national mental health festival for the education community; Now and Beyond. In February 2022, thousands of educational settings will receive free lesson materials across KS1-KS4; the unique opportunity to book bespoke workshops for their school by our network of approved mental health and wellbeing providers; as well as the chance to tune in to our all access live streamed event lineup featuring celebrity guests.
Our first festival was held at the height of the pandemic in February 2021. Never before has the mental health and wellbeing sector come together in such a powerful way so as to provide unique support for students in their greatest time of need (over 1200 settings took part). And we’re looking forward to repeating the success.
However, only after undertaking this volunteer-led event, with little to no budget, did we really understand the situation. Educators need easy to access resources, tailored for those non trained mental health professionals, that allow them to successfully support their most vulnerable students and empower others to know how to manage difficult emotions.
Speaking to Thomas Young, Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, Bay Education Trust (serving more than 2000 young people through three academies), “more and more young people are displaying the “Warning Signs” of poor mental health which can lead to a huge knock on effect on attendance and attainment if they are not provided with suitable support in a timely manner.”
So what is it that we’re looking for and what is actually out there? In the absence of all being trained mental health professionals, just how do we cater to the increasing needs of our students as they battle to contend with the effects of uncertainty, isolation and trauma that COVID-19 has brought upon us all.
“We realise that school leaders are still having to hold a lot right now; from covering staff absence to dealing with the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Through our training, school staff have told us that scheduling time for their own and colleagues’ wellbeing is a challenge, but many have benefitted from the simple guidance and practical examples found within our Supporting Staff Wellbeing in Schools booklet.” - Monisha Jefcut, Training Manager in the Anna Freud Centre’s Schools’ Division.
In thinking about what educators need, it’s useful to think about what exists already. There are plenty of resources out there but access to them is incredibly challenging. Time poor but well meaning educators lacking in the financial resources to fund some of these may feel exasperated at the thought of sourcing decent content.
“Some of the best [mental health] resources out there can incur a cost which puts a spin on it as budgets are always so tight. On the other hand having so much to look through can be time consuming and overwhelming for staff as a number of resources are not updated and therefore not fit for purpose anymore” - Thomas Young.
In the interest of celebrating the great community in which I’m lucky enough to work, I am pleased to share what I think are some of the best free resources to help teachers support their students’ mental wellbeing.
- Now and Beyond - the UKs only mental health festival for educational settings. Held on 9th February 2022. Sign up here for free workshops, materials and live streamed events.
- Anna Freud Centre’s Resources - advice, teacher toolkits and more across a wide range of categories.
- BLOOM - largest UK-wide programme for 14-18 year olds which focuses on supporting young people’s mental health resilience.
- Bow Wowza provides highly engaging and entertaining resources to support KS1-2 with lessons on many mental wellbeing areas including Gratitude, Self-Compassion and Kindness through their talking dogs.
- Mind Yer Time is a resource created by young people for young people. It’s powered by the Children’s Parliament and Scottish Youth Parliament and offers tips and advice on how to establish healthy social media habits in a relatable and fun way.
- Happy Space is the mental health charity that protects the minds of tomorrow. They offer wellbeing resources to students in transitional stages ie KS2 and KS4. Happy Space is often in a position to offer these resources for free to schools who are unable to afford them. To sign up to their waitlist, click here.
- Nip In The Bud produces short videos that focus on a different mental illness in each. Featuring young people reflecting on their lived experiences, it’s an invaluable resource for teachers who want to introduce difficult topics.
- Stonewall is the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ organisation. They have an immense resource hub to bring LGBTQ+ education into the classroom.
- Free yoga, mindfulness and dance resources by 2Simple.
- Kooth - a digital support hub for young people that includes, free online chats with trained counsellors, peer support and free 1:1 live counselling sessions for young people
- The need for interim support is why we developed our Now and Beyond Directory; a free, location based resource that connects educators with a national network of approved mental health and wellbeing providers. Whilst students sit on invariably long CAMHS waiting lists, and staff in schools bear the brunt of its impact, our goal is to equip them with the information required to bring in immediate, interim support.
“As we have progressed through the pandemic, I have certainly felt that there has been more emphasis on better equipping educators, I found the Wellbeing for Education return programme to be incredibly helpful and I hope that programmes like it become more common” Thomas Young, Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator, Bay Education Trust,
This article was written by Louisa Rose, CEO Beyond and founder of Now and Beyond, the UK's first mental health and wellbeing festival for schools. Louisa previously worked as a social media consultant during the last decade and is particularly interested in reinforcing healthy social media habits for young people. Louisa is diagnosed with depression, anxiety, Tourette's and OCD and publicly reflects on her personal mental health journey. Louisa is married and a mother of two young boys. 'There's a huge variety of third sector and independent mental health and wellbeing support in the UK but sadly, barriers such as funding and access makes it near impossible for the education community to engage them. We've got a fire in our belly at Beyond and we will continue to fight until mental health and wellbeing is prioritised by the government.'