Christmas campaign: The school where mental wellbeing comes first

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Emily Armstrong decided years ago that mental health would be at the forefront of the curriculum at Bexton Primary, where kids are encouraged to talk about their worries and teachers are trained to help them. And she now believes the Covid crisis has vindicated that decision.

The impact of isolation from lockdowns is being seen in classrooms across the country with children finding it difficult to express and share emotions.

Pupils, teachers and parents at Bexton Primary have also been hit by the pandemic, but there help is already at hand.

Every teacher has trauma and mental health training so they can support any youngsters who need help.

The school in Knutsford, Cheshire, also has specialist staff to support children and their families.

Emily said: “All through the pandemic, our staff worked hard to stay in touch with children and families. Parents told us how important this contact and support was.”

“At Bexton we are committed to supporting the emotional health and well-being of our pupils and staff. We take the view positive mental health is everybody’s business and we all have a role to play.”

That’s a view echoed by the Daily Express’ Christmas campaign, By Your Side. We have joined forces with charity Mind to put mental health front and centre of the national conversation.

We also aim to raise vital funds for Britain’s leading mental health charity.

Last year Mind was approached by 20 million people ‑ about a third of the population and the highest demand the charity had faced since it was founded in 1946.

Three in five people said their mental health worsened during lockdown but one third did not seek help. Mind fears millions are now “living on borrowed time”.

And it is calling on the Government to commit £1.459billion to help children and young people over the next three years.

Bexton Primary is putting the work in now. Emily said: “We believe it is important to give children a strong education around mental health so if, when they’re older, they experience challenges they have a good range of tools to draw upon.”

Pupils finding it hard to cope can speak to a teacher in no-holds-barred “Jigsaw” sessions, where they learn it is normal for emotions to fluctuate. 

They also learn are about the vital role older people play and meet up with residents from a nearby care home.

And they work with charities to learn the importance of helping others.

The school’s approach to mental health is a big hit with the children.

Jonty, 10, said: “There are so many grown-ups trained at school to help us if we need it. My teacher always says a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Jack, also 10, added: “We love helping others and making their lives happier!”

Bexton Primary is supporting our By Your Side Christmas campaign.

Emily said: “Our school motto is ‘Together we make a difference.’ And we hope we really do.”

‘I felt like I had to figure out myself’

Clift says men should not be afraid to talk openly about their mental health.

The 20-year-old said: “It’s seen as a ‘female’ thing to do. I never grew up with a dad, so I felt like I had to figure out how to be a man myself. I looked up to the wrong type of people as a teenager and never felt like I could or should open up.”

Haleem, from Taunton, also advises not to ignore medication. He added: “They’ve helped me manage my mood disorder.”

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