Mental health and wellbeing continues to be a major concern for schools, with the ongoing impact of the pandemic increasing pressure on services. It is vital that children understand that mental health, like physical health, is part of daily life and is important that they learn to recognise and understand their own feelings and learn how to cope with feelings of frustration, anger and anxiety. Lyfta provides positive human stories to support these discussions in the classroom.
Mental health and wellbeing
Why is discussion of mental health in schools important?
Children need to understand that mental health, like physical health, is part of daily life. It's important that they learn to recognise and understand their own feelings and learn how to cope with feelings of frustration, anger and anxiety. In schools, we can explore many areas which help children look after and understand their mental health such as:
Getting good quality regular sleep
Being kind and compassionate
Understanding and managing feelings
Learning to cope with difficult feelings
Talking to someone they trust
Getting closer to nature
How can mental health be discussed effectively in school?
Discussing mental healthin a meaningful way can be a challenge so we've come up with 4 great ways to support, using the Lyfta storyworlds.
1. Focus on emotional wellbeing
Hanna in The Paint Workshop storyworld - part of the Secrets of the Opera storyworld series.
A whole school assembly is an easy way to introduce Mental Health Day. Our Secrets of the Opera storyworld includes assembly plans on emotional well-being and on resilience. The storyworld series explores a range of people's real-life experiences, which can be used to explore various aspects of life including the importance of good mental health and emotional wellbeing.
In one of the storyworlds, The Paint Workshop we meet Hanna, the Painting Manager, and learn how she copes with the ups and downs of her job and keeps herself physically and mentally well. Students will learn how she takes care of her mental health on her "beautiful" commute to work through a birch forest which relaxes her so she doesn't have "to worry about the road ahead".
Sometimes she feels angry and frustrated at work, like her "walls are caving in" and students will learn how Hanna copes with this.
Follow up with these discussions and questions in class:
Ask the class about their commute to school or a favourite walk they might have. What have they observed about the walk? Better still, take them out for a walk in a local park and ask them to write down afterwards the sights and sounds that they noticed.
Ask the class 'what do you do when you feel sad, angry or frustrated?' Then discuss ways they might be able to cope with these feelings. It might be by taking time out, talking about the issue with a friend or teacher, writing things down in a journal or going for a walk.
Ask the class 'what can we do to keep ourselves physically and mentally healthy?' It could be things like eating healthily, regular exercise, sleeping well, talking to our friends and family if we feel unhappy, getting outside and helping others.
2. Teach your children the importance of being kind and compassionate
Leah playing the violin from the storyworld Compassion is Key.
Being kind and doing something nice for someone else is a great boost for anyone's mental health. Set the children a task of doing one kind, compassionate thing every day and recording it on a sheet. Encourage them to be creative and think up different acts of kindness. It could be holding the door open for someone, looking after a pet, asking if a friend is okay, or doing some volunteer work.
In our Lyfta storyworld, Compassion is Key we meet Leah who shows compassion to her family and her wider community. In the story, we see how this helps her to feel better about herself. Leah misses her recently deceased grandparents but says "When I'm sad, I need to make others happy." So Leah pays regular visits to the nursing home where her grandparents lived and plays her violin to the elderly residents there.
Taking care of animals might be another way children can show compassion and it can also have a very positive effect on mental health. In Dogs Best Friend we meet Erkan from Turkey who lives alone and has few friends but has found his calling and a joy for life in feeding stray animals. "They eat and I feel happy," he says. He believes that by being with the dogs he can "learn to understand the values of life".
3. Keep moving - the importance of sport and physical exercise
It is proven that sport and physical exercise is beneficial for mental health. It gives us more energy, helps us sleep better, can improve our mood, keeps us healthy and reduces our stress and anxiety. It's important for children to find physical activities that they enjoy that they can do regularly.
The Lyfta platform offers a range of immersive storyworlds which focus on real human stories with a sport and physical activity lens. These interactive spaces and short films can be used as a powerful tool to nurture and explore positive values in the classroom. Children can learn from these Lyfta storyworlds how sport has made a difference in the lives of people and their mental health. Lyfta will be running free #LyftaLive lessons for schools on this topic during the Men's Football World Cup.
Yu and her team mates in The Enduring Captain storyworld - part of the Kids' Cup storyworld series
InThe Enduring Captain,we meet Yu, from the Chengdu region of China. Discover how Yu leads and supports her teammates when the going gets tough as they compete at the Kids' Cup in Norway. See her team train and find out how playing football and studying hard is Yu's way of dealing with bereavement - and preparing for her future.
Ali playing cricket in storyworld For the love of Game
In For the Love of the Game, we visit Karachi, the biggest city in Pakistan, and meet Ali and his friends, who have formed a cricket team who don't take themselves too seriously. Students will find out more about Pakistan's cricket superstars and look at how the women's cricket game has taken off. They will also discover ways to build resilience, look after their wellbeing and explore positive participation.
Weightlifter Anni in Anni's Home storyworld - part of the Dinnertime 360 storyworld series
Students may also enjoy meeting our female medal-winning weightlifter Anni in our storyworld, Anni's Home. They will see the dedication and focus that Anni has as she trains for competitions. They can also learn about the very different sporting activities her parents forced her to learn on holiday, and hear why she loves doing it now. Anni believes that her hobbies and sport stop her from getting depressed and bored.
4. Encourage students to be curious and open-minded to new experiences
Learning to make positive changes to our lives can impact our mental health. It's important to remind children that life can feel more interesting, lively and rewarding when we are open to trying new experiences and experimenting with how we do things. For example walking a different route, trying new food, meeting a new person, discovering a new band or trying a new sport. What is important is to stay curious and willing to embrace new experiences.
Lyfta is all about new experiences and we encourage all our learners to be curious about the world and the people in it. We believe that Lyfta lessons at school can help add that spark to learning and to life. We hope that Lyfta students become more open-minded as they learn about and empathise with different people living very different lives all around the world.