Partnership Working to Support Mental Health

10th October 2018

As today is World Mental Health Day, Connect shares the excellent partnership work of Maisondieu Primary School in Angus, part of our Partnership Schools Scotland network.

Supporting Maisondieu Minds Together is led by a Mental Health Action Team which includes staff, parents, pupils and the wider community.  They have organised activities and events to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst the school community, successfully engaging more and different families through their work. Their hard work has earned praise from Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who visited the school in January 2018, and will be included in the National Network of Partnership Schools Promising Partnership Practices 2018 in the US.

Maisondieu Primary is one of a cluster of schools in Brechin with Brechin High as the secondary school.  Staff at Brechin High had identified mental wellbeing as an issue for many students and adults in the community and the team at Maisondieu believed the messages about good mental health should be introduced to children as early as possible.

The team wanted to raise awareness of mental wellbeing and equip parents and carers to support their children and themselves. They established a dedicated wellbeing group to focus on this issue and targeted partners to help deliver the strategy, which included leaders of extracurricular clubs and local mental health professionals.

Some of the team’s actions include:

  • surveys of parents and children to record baseline knowledge, repeated on a regular basis to monitor progress
  • developing a wellbeing strategy with partners
  • organising a wellbeing evening, film screenings and a wellbeing café for parents to explore key themes and ask questions
  • making sure each class has a system in place to provide children with the opportunity to express feelings/emotions, such as a feelings drop-box, and creating a staff wellbeing policy and library.

These helped children, parents and staff at Maisondieu develop a range of strategies to deal with feelings and emotions, understand who to approach to get the help they need, have opportunities to express their emotions and ask for help, and develop an understanding of resilience. As a result of their work:

Children

  • are developing a range of strategies to deal with feelings and emotions
  • understand who to approach to get help
  • have daily opportunities to express their emotions and ask for help if needed
  • are beginning to develop an understanding of resilience
  • are supported to maintain a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep)

Parents

  • are developing greater understanding and skills to support their children
  • understand who to approach to get help
  • are beginning to develop an understanding of resilience
  • have a safe space to discuss options, resources and approaches
  • recognise their own wellbeing
  • are able to identify signs of mental ill-health

Staff

  • have mental health awareness training on nurture & attachment, brain development, anxiety, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, self-harm, anger, Adverse Childhood Experiences, trauma etc.
  • provide daily opportunities for children to express their emotions
  • know who to approach to get the help they need (to support children and to seek help for themselves)
  • know how to develop their own wellbeing

By taking a whole school community approach both children and adults are understanding and developing their own mental wellbeing, and have a shared understanding and approach. In this way, no-one is left behind, and the work is embedded in the practice of the school community for the future.

Partnership Schools Scotland is led by Connect with financial support from Skills Development Scotland. Partnership Schools is a model of school, family and community partnerships to improve outcomes for children and young people, and was devised and researched by Dr Joyce Epstein and a team based at Johns Hopkins University in the US. Connect introduced this model to Scottish schools in 2015, and is currently working with 32 schools across 7 local authorities.