Did you know that 66% of young people have experienced stigma and discrimination when reaching out for or receiving mental health support? Or that 35% of 11-13 year olds feel that friends, family, carers, teachers, or other authority figures are a source of stigma and discrimination? Such figures demonstrate how difficult it can be for young people to ask for help, as well as the need for more safe spaces where children can receive mental health support.
So, to mark World Mental Health Day, we’re exploring the role can governors play in nurturing a compassionate environment where students feel able to speak up about their needs. What can governors do to ensure mental health is discussed and prioritised during board meetings? And how can we address all students’ mental health needs?
Why are we talking about this?
Mental health is an intersectional issue. Did you know, for example, that 31% of people who identify as Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic identify the stigma and racism associated with their ethnicity as a cause of difficult emotion? How about that 67% of people who identify as gay or lesbian feel the way they are treated because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity can impact on the way they feel?
Such statistics show that while mental health problems can affect anyone, marginalised communities often face greater challenges. Governors can make a difference in a range of ways, including:
- Undertake an audit of the school’s provision: Find out what’s available to students and how the mental health and wellbeing of pupils is planned into the everyday life of the school. As part of this, listen and learn to pupils’ needs to get a strong understanding of how the school could improve provisions.
- Discuss what success surrounding effective mental health awareness might look like: Consider what kinds of concrete goals school leaders could pursue to improve mental health provision for all pupils. It’s also a good idea to discuss how you’ll measure progress towards these goals. Schools could, for example, hold pupil and staff surveys to determine how they feel and whether current initiatives are driving positive results.
- Use your skills and experiences to advocate for students from marginalised groups: Governors from minoritised or historically disadvantaged groups may be able to offer valuable insights into pupils’ experiences surrounding mental health, particularly surrounding discrimination and provision of care. As our Inclusive Governance campaign aims to highlight, diverse boards are fundamental for driving positive change for all pupils.
Ready to make a difference? Volunteer as a governor today!
As you can see, mental health is a complex issue that requires consistent care and attention in schools. If you’re looking to make a difference in young people’s lives, why not volunteer as a governor today? We’ll work hard to match you with a school that benefits from your skills and expertise.