About Thriving Futures

WHO comprehensive framework for health promotion in schools

Thriving Futures is aimed at whole school intervention, sitting in the 'Mental Health Education' part of the World Health Organisation model for schools. 

The intention is to introduce students (and teachers) to a overview of what mental health is, how good mental health is developed, what can go wrong and how we can do simple things to begin to put that right. 

It is about providing  knowledge and the language of mental health, so that: 

1. Pupils are able to maintain good mental health in an ever increasing stressful world of exams, social media, peer pressure, negative news, body expectations ...

2. Students that do need more specialised help, be it through school based intervention or through specialised services such as CAMHS or CBT programmes, are able to access it more easily

A more detailed explanation of the research behind Thriving Futures, as published in the Education and Health Journal, can be found here:

Thriving Futures: A whole school curriculum response to addressing the social and emotional welfare needs of secondary school pupils.

See bottom of page for a summary of the paper.

The lessons

As a teacher I understand that lessons rarely run exactly as planned and that teachers tend to adapt lessons according to their own teaching style as well as the needs of the students in front of them.  I have therefore tried to make Thriving Futures as flexible as possible, by basing lessons round a series of images, with options for teaching, and by having a core unit surrounded by satellite units. 

The Core Unit does need to be taught first as this contains key ideas that are repeated throughout the other units.  It is RECOMMENDED that the 'Preparing to Teach Mental Health Unit' is taught as an introduction to the core unit.  This is a stand alone lesson, that introduces the topic of mental health and sets up the classroom rules for examining what could be very sensitive issues. When taught together with the Core Unit, it creates six 1 hour lessons which should create a half term unit of work. (Please note that I have kep the preparation lessons separate so that it is easier to recap the class rules when teaching further units.)

The order in which you look at the satellite units depends very much on the needs of your school. It should be noted that the 'staying in control' unit is not only for pupils with behavioural issues, it also there to help quieter pupils understand that they too have a voice and why it is important that they don't bottle up their thoughts and feelings. 

About the Author

I worked as a teacher for over 15 years, teaching English in a number of mainstream, challenging schools. It was a job I used to love, however, with the nature of education changing, putting increased pressure on both teachers and students, it was with great regret that I decided it was no longer the profession for me. In 2015, I moved from mainstream to an alternative education project that provided a bespoke curriculum for pupils that found it difficult to access the mainstream.

The common linking theme with all the students was poor mental health. Whilst working with these students, I felt disheartened teaching a curriculum that was often irrelevant to the struggles these young adults were facing. Whilst I found I could connect well with the students, having experienced difficulties in childhood that resulted in depression & anxiety, I felt frustrated at the lack of resources available to help explain their emerging mental health issues. This led me to  a change in career, retraining as a Mental Health Nurse; I am currently working on an acute mental health ward where I feel extremely priviledged to be able to use my knowledge and experieince of mental illnes to ease distress in moments of crisis. Ultimately it is my intention to use my teaching and nursing skills together to address mental health needs within schools

I firmly believe that schools could be instrumental in responding to emerging mental health concerns if only they had the right time, funding, resources and support. Any 6 or 7 year old is able to give a brief explanation of the impact of smoking or poor diet on physical health, yet most adults will not be able to explain any of the causes of poor mental health; and, if we don’t understand the causes, how can we even begin to take measures to stay mentally healthy? I decided to put together linked schemes of work that examined the causes of poor mental health and low self-esteem by using the think, feel, behave model from cognitive behavioural therapy. Aware of the limited funding schools receive, I made the conscious decision that resources should be freely available as all young people should know basic information about mental health and self-esteem.

In addition to this, I began to realise the importance of teacher understanding of poor mental health, the more I progressed through the nursing course, the more I thought, ‘I wish I’d known that when I was teaching’. I have begun to add INSET training which describes as well as explains mental illness in order to allow the reader/ listener into the mindset of some of their pupils. This is something I am extremely passionate about having struggled with poor mental health since a teenager. I live with anxiety, depression, thoughts to self-harm and suicidal ideation, something for which I take medication and something I have to consciously challenge on a daily basis. My poor mental health is very much a result of childhood trauma, neglect and abuse leading to an increasing interest in trauma informed practice, something I openly advocate for in both teaching and nursing. Through talking openly and honestly about my lived experiences I hope to challenge stereotype & stigma and prove that you can lead a positive life despite past trauma and mental illness, thereby providing hope for those strugglin.

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