NHS figures released recently showed that 1 in 6 school-age children in England had a probable mental health disorder, a significant increase in the 1 in 9 figure from before the pandemic. The data shows that boys are more likely to be affected at primary school, and girls more likely to be affected at secondary.
At One in A Million Free School in Bradford, School-Home Support Practitioner Zoe has been holding wellbeing sessions for teenage girls on her caseload who are struggling with low self esteem, and particularly lacking in confidence relating to their body image.
Zoe began to notice that a number of the young people she was working with were struggling with confidence and self esteem, and that they were lacking a safe, open space at school to tackle their negative feelings towards themselves. Recognising the need, Zoe set up a weekly wellbeing session, which would take place over lunch time break for 6 weeks. Zoe wanted to use the session to bring the girls together in a friendly and welcoming small group setting, to encourage positive discussions and show the girls that they were not alone in their feelings.
The group is for up to 8 young women, to ensure the group’s participants feel comfortable and the session is a necessary contrast from the big class sizes that they sometimes find very daunting. Of the 8 participants, four are from Zoe’s own caseload, and four others have been identified by the school as needing extra support building their confidence and self esteem.
A number of the girls in attendance have been wearing facemasks around school, not because of concerns around spreading Covid-19, but because they feel more comfortable covering their face, and what they see as their own imperfections. Often, the girls were not eating dinners in school due to feeling self conscious, as well as skipping breakfast, causing significant concern about their wellbeing and their ability to engage at school on an empty stomach.
Three weeks in and the sessions have been a great success. A range of different creative activities designed around collage making, writing and drawing provide the backdrop for the girls to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe space, as well as for Zoe to share them with important information and resources that can support them to make positive informed choices.
At the end of each session, the girls have the opportunity to write down their thoughts and feedback on the session. Some of the feedback has included:
‘I wish we could do this every day!’
‘I actually really enjoyed my first ever session 🙂 The girls here are friendly and welcoming.’
‘This session really helped me and I was confident to eat. Normally I don’t eat in school because I am uncomfortable.’
‘Very fun and relaxing.’