Whilst sheltering at home during this pandemic, scientists remind us daily that the best way to protect our family’s health and safety is by practising good hygiene, taking preventive measures such as social distancing, prioritising immunity both through healthy food and staying active, and by proactively protecting the mental wellbeing of ourselves and our children. We are all vulnerable to psychiatric distress at times like this. Life can feel lonely. Previous infectious disease outbreaks have highlighted common stressors from being ill-informed, fearful, frustrated and bored.

Through our morning assemblies in the Junior School this week, we have promoted Children’s Mental Health Week, raising awareness of good mental health and wellbeing as equal in importance to good physical health. This year’s theme is ‘Express Yourself’: finding ways to share feelings, thoughts, or ideas, through creativity. Despite the restrictions we currently endure, our students have enjoyed sharing their art, music, poetry, dance and drama through our live online lessons, using photography and film, pursuing activities which make them feel good. This mirrors the curricular and extra-curricular experience which our students enjoy whilst in school too – with specialist teaching in these subjects starting right from our Nursery. 

An important part of this week’s focus is that expressing yourself doesn’t have to correlate with being the best at something. It’s all about finding ways to show other people who you are and how you feel. It’s about showing how you see the world and finding a way to express yourself that feels good. Life experience has encouraged me to be an advocate for individuality and we foster an environment for all the students in our school to truly be themselves. Being comfortable with yourself is one of the ways to be mentally and emotionally strong. Because we can’t live for anybody else. We can only live for ourselves. 

Also, this week, the Prime Minister appointed Dr Alex George as a Youth Mental Health Ambassador to advise government and raise the profile of mental health and wellbeing in schools, alongside academic success. Through sharing both his clinical and personal experience of the impact of poor mental health on families, he reminds us that having a psychological condition might make you different from someone else, but that’s not something you should feel bad about. Everyone has their own internal battles which the world may not know about. Right now, they may present themselves in various guises which we have just not encountered before. By ensuring every student in our care is given the emotional support they need, we are imparting a firm foundation for the happy, healthy future they deserve – both through this pandemic, and beyond. 

And also in a week when Captain Sir Tom Moore – who raised over £33 million through his NHS charity walks last year – died at the age of 100, we receive an inspiring reminder (literally and figuratively) of the impact each of us can have by taking just one step to help others. 

Nisha Kaura
Head of The Abbey Junior School