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A team approach to mental wellbeing

Three children sit on the floor with their teacher, looking at a notebook that he is holding out. Overlaid is the Catch22 Multi Academies Trust logo.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, for which the theme is ‘Loneliness’, The Fen Rivers Academy reflects on the importance of teamwork in supporting the school’s Mental Wellbeing.

The Fen Rivers Academy, part of the Catch22 Multi Academies Trust, is an SEMH special school based in King’s Lynn. As well as a strong focus on therapeutic interventions, the school has developed a robust wellbeing offer and mental health support across its entire school community. Provisions include weekly wellbeing focuses, drawing and talking therapies as well as sensory therapies.

Four of the school’s staff have undertaken the Level 5 Diploma in Trauma and Mental Health Informed Practice and have practitioner status, working with all staff to cascade their training and share this in-house. In fact, staff of the Fen Rivers Academy recently won an InsideOut award in recognition of their efforts to go above and beyond in championing the mental health of those around them, particularly in the workplace.

With loneliness the theme of Mental Health Awareness week this year, Amanda Fewkes, Headteacher of the Fen Rivers Academy, has reflected on the necessity of teamwork in improving school attitudes towards mental health, and her own role as the team’s leader. It is often said to be ‘lonely at the top’ and, whilst in many situations that might be the case, Amanda considers herself lucky not to feel this way.

Amanda said:

“I am privileged to do a job that is challenging, rewarding and all consuming. I am in the right place, surrounded by the right people, fulfilling my purpose.

I can easily see how lonely it would be without others alongside me with the same drive, passion and determination to bring about change for the better. Without these people, the support networks, and extended organisational support, it could be the loneliest role.”

Jude Henson, Mental Health First Aider and Wellbeing Champion at the Fen Rivers Academy, is passionate about challenging the stereotypes and bias around mental health.

Jude adds:

“Creating a community of people who can speak honestly about stresses and struggles in life, know how to regularly check in with each other, listen to, value and accept each other, while being their “whole selves”, is crucial in mental health support being effective and tangible in the workplace and organisations we work in.

For me personally, I feel that truly effective mental health support is a bit like the adage around raising children…. in that it takes a village.”

Both agree and emphasise that creating a culture of openness, honesty, and acceptance around mental health, particularly through the global COVID-19 pandemic, would have been impossible without the entire team championing the same cause.

Amanda notes:

“To improve a school, relentlessly, determinedly, through a global pandemic, with the ever-shifting sands, risk assessments and change; with the huge responsibility for the safety and well-being of all, has been a team effort; with a culture of care, belonging and self-belief.”

Jude concludes:

“I strongly agree with Shannon L Alder’s quote that states: ‘If we can change ‘I’ into ‘we’ then together we can change ‘illness’ into ‘wellness.’”