A Thought Piece by David Camps 17 May 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a national event aiming to raise awareness of mental health problems, inspire action and promote the message of good mental health for all.

In line with this year’s theme, we’ve been speaking to E-ACT staff from across the trust about managing stress in their own lives and the lives of their pupils.

Today, we’re talking to David Camps, Assistant Headteacher at Mansfield Green E-ACT Academy, about his coping strategies.

What causes you stress?

These days a multitude of things cause me stress! We live in a society where perfection is the goal: there’s a pressure to have a perfect home life, a perfect work life and perfect relationships. We also live in a consumer driven society where weight, height, age and physical features matter… or at least we are led to believe that they matter.

How do you cope with stress?

At times, I just need some time on my own in order to put life into perspective. Other times, it’s easier to tackle the issue causing me stress head on. I’m a big believer that bottling things up doesn’t help, so I try to release some of my thoughts by writing a letter or speaking to a friend.

How do you help your pupils to deal with stress?

When I first trained as a teacher I can recall a conversation between my school-based mentor and a child. The child was bawling her eyes out because her friends had said that they were no longer her friends. She was clearly distressed; my mentor offered the minimal ‘there, there, it’ll be ok’.

We often disregard this sort of stress far too easily due to stresses of our own. That child just needed someone to tell her that it was okay to feel the way she did, and that actually she isn’t the only person who would feel that way in the same situation.

When I became an NQT I had a worries post box, where children could post their worries. I told the children that I would read them and that if they wanted to talk to me about anything, I would listen and help if I could. It taught the children that it was okay to worry, and that they did not need to keep their feelings bottled up.

Do you share stress strategies with your colleagues?

At our academy, we have an open environment where ideas are shared and you see good practice daily. We all have a shared ethos that “magpieing” for the needs of the children is vital in ensuring we support our pupils in every aspect of academy life. I also recommend websites like Pinterest, where you can pick up some great ideas.

What do you think about our work around mental health?

Although we are in the early days of our work on mental health we have come a long way in a short period of time. I think we must continue to prioritise mental health. It will be great to see more aspects of mental health embedded into our curriculum and for us to support our communities by raising awareness and campaigning for developments to be made to mental health on a national scale.

The CPD package we have been offered this year has set a precedent of what can be achieved. This E-ACT offer has provided much opportunity to academies in varying communities with different needs, equipping staff with the skills they need to support their pupils.

What advice do you have for people working in education who feel stressed?

Talk – between colleagues, friends, family or leaders in your setting. I’m sure there will be someone who is feeling very similar to you or at one time in their life has felt the same. We, as a multi-academy trust, have come a long way, and we’ve done that together. When we come together we can achieve great things.

Read more stress-busting tips from E-ACT staff here. If you need support or would like to talk to someone, you can call our Health Assured Employee Assistance Programme on 0800 030 5182. Alternatively, you can email HR.Team@E-ACT.org.uk.