May 13 to 19 is Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative spearheaded each year by the UK Mental Health Foundation (MHFUK). This year the theme is body image.
Research shows over a third of UK adults have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns about body image. Indications are that figures are even higher amongst children and young adults, spurred probably by social media where the importance of an idealised body is reinforced through material such as selfies.
tpm is focussing on positive body image in seminars with apprentices and other learners all this week. We’re getting them to explore ways to build self-esteem through the promotion of positive body image whilst identifying what contributes to negative body image.
Here’s what else we do at tpm to support learner mental health all year round
1. Mental health awareness sessions
Every tpm trainee and apprentice takes part in sessions covering mental health. These cover recognising symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, OCD and other mental illness. The sessions also look at what help is available to deal with mental illness, and consider how to end discrimination around mental health.
These sessions form an important part of our drive to provide outstanding support to our learners so they achieve their potential. It also ties in with our safeguarding policy.
2. Mental health champions
We have four mental health champions at tpm. These are members of staff who have additional skills and experience in dealing with mental health. They provide support, advice and signposting to any learner who is undergoing difficulty. Learners can choose to chat with them one-to-one or by phone. These sessions are completely confidential and are available to all tpm trainees and apprentices.
Louise Hazley, learner support co-ordinator at tpm explains: “Learners can self-refer for help from a champion. In other cases a teacher or assessor might recommend intervention. We take learner welfare seriously. Each champion has a caseload and will meet with the learners on their roll at least once a month, and often more frequently.
“Learners can ask to speak to a particular champion with whom they feel more at ease. There is at least one champion on site at all times.”
3. Staff are formally qualified in mental health
tpm has made a commitment to getting its staff formally qualified to support learners’ mental health. Several staff have already achieved their level 2 certificate in Understanding Children and Young People’s Mental Health, with several more currently working towards it. This means we have the professional skills needed to provide the correct support. This is vitally important in the area of mental health where the way staff respond to learners who confide in them can make a critical difference to their wellbeing.
4. Time to talk
On a day-to-day basis, we provide tea, coffee and toast to learners which provides the opportunity for them to to sit down and speak to staff. This allows us to check in with learners and for them to speak freely. We first did this in 2018 during Time To Talk Week and it has been a very effective, informal way of making the learners feel supported.
5. Topical issues
tpm teachers are aware of the constant flow of pressures faced by learners. They will tackle current issues throughout the learner journey, picking up on things like exam stress, or particular news items that might affect them such as the threat of terrorism after the Manchester Arena bombing.
Brian Quinn, director at tpm says: “Young people face pressure and stress from so many sources, with social media featuring highly. We pride ourselves on how we are promoting positive messages about the steps learners can take for themselves and others to create a healthy and happy environment for learning. We don’t want a single learner to fall through the net and not achieve their very best.”
Any tpm learner who feels their mental or emotional wellbeing is suffering needs to know they are not alone. If you are concerned about your mental health, please let one of our mental health champions know. Starting a confidential discussion with one of them can be the first step in feeling better.