Sussex School Leads the Way in Supporting Children’s Mental Health

Sussex School Leads the Way in Supporting Children’s Mental Health

Photo: The iSpace Wellbeing conversation map. Using the theme of space, children are introduced to a Wellbeing Galaxy which provides a framework to prompt, support and guide children as they explore their experiences, thoughts and feelings.

To celebrate Children’s Mental Health Week and as part of its on-going work to promote the positive mental health of children in schools, Cumnor House Sussex hosted its annual Wellbeing Day on Friday 8th February 2019. Joined by a wealth of experts and mental health advocates, the school showcased its unique wellbeing curriculum as well as hosting an inspirational evening seminar for parents and the wider community.  Esteemed Harley Street Consultant Professor Stein led the seminar on understanding child behaviour, with the single aim of making the conversation about children’s mental health and wellbeing a normal part of everyday life.

Cumnor House Sussex was privileged to welcome Hamish and Linda Elvidge, Founder and Trustees of The Matthew Elvidge Trust and Hope Virgo, author of ‘Stand Tall Little Girl’ and mental health campaigner, who are united in their objective to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of wellbeing and mental health and to break the stigma surrounding it. In the words of Paula Talman, the school’s Director of Compliance, Health & Welfare, “we passionately believe that we have a role to play in teaching children how to attend to themselves, to others, to learning and dealing with life”.

Hamish, Linda and Hope spent the day reviewing the school’s iSpace Wellbeing curriculum for 4-11 year old children. Developed by Pala Talman, it offers a language and toolkit to help children, teachers and parents start the conversation about mental health and has been swiftly followed by #iWonder, which has recently been introduced for 11 to 13 year old children in Years 7 and 8, and focuses on helping teens understand their emotional, physical, social and mental health.

They observed wellbeing-themed lessons across all age groups including a Pre-Prep Assembly where children from Nursery to Year 3 demonstrated the iSpace vocabulary they have learnt to help them talk about how they’re feeling, watched a Year 6 play about how understanding mental health and wellbeing will influence the workplace in the future, and handed out 12 Ambassador Awards to those children showing a keen interest in wellbeing lessons and putting their learning into practice.

Hamish commented “It was amazing to hear such young children talking about their mental health and wellbeing. This should be at the centre of every school as it is so important in supporting learning, enabling children to achieve their best, develop positive relationships with others and for life ahead”.

Hamish, Linda and Hope also had the valuable opportunity to speak first hand with parents whose children have benefitted through iSpace. One parent reflected “The tools, language and life skills that the children are learning will provide them all with a very strong foundation for the challenges ahead. What I have seen today is so needed and should be available to every child and young person”.

The day culminated with an informative and thought provoking conversation in the school’s theatre where 150 people heard Consultant Psychiatrist Professor Stein talk first-hand about his experiences of dealing with child and adolescent behaviour for over 20 years. During the evening Hope Virgo also shared her harrowing, yet truly inspiring, story and battle with anorexia and how we all have a vital role to play in continuing the conversation on mental health.

As the day drew to a close, Headmaster Christian Heinrich summarised “Through iSpace Wellbeing we are enabling children to seek support when they need it, giving them a toolkit for life and changing the narrative around mental health. Today has also served to demonstrate how important it is to provide individual support, something we are uniquely placed to do at Cumnor.”