I studied Art Therapy in my undergraduate degree and I am now a therapist. It seem’s so natural for me to use art as therapy with my children. It’s natural for them to turn to creativity as a form of self soothing too. I’ve walked into their rooms so many times during lockdown to find them drawing and painting. This makes me so happy. We’re missing travelling so much at the moment, we decided to paint a mural of all out favourite holiday destinations. It has been a wonderful distraction and escape into a colourful adventure of our own making.
Our new podcast series will take a refreshing look at mental health by gently exploring the topics with a range of professionals and more importantly, those with lived experience.
Sharing experiences is a powerful agent to challenge stigma, change attitudes and to increase awareness of mental health.
So proud to tell you that the next episode of our podcast will be released this week looking at the challenges of parenting during lockdown.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to listen to our series of podcasts just yet, you can catch up on our first episode discussing perinatal mental health issues and our second episode exploring one individuals experiences of psychosis.
Catch it here: https://anchor.fm/ash-ruan-botes
As a kid, there’s nothing more magical than a tree house. There is nothing more terrifying as a parent, however, than the prospect of building one.
Together Father and Son have followed up on their dreams by using this time in lockdown to build their very own three-story tree house in their back garden.
AJ now has found a sanctuary where he can feel peaceful and has been working very hard to help his dad on this project.
Having your children help you to make your tree house will build memories that can last forever. It will also build skills in your children as well as teaching them something new.
Your whole family will enjoy spending time together making it as well as the many hours of play that it will offer for years to come.
What projects have you and your families been working on together during Lockdown?
Collective creativity has been flourishing locally.
The outside fencing of the primary school has been transformed into a lovely sea of colour.
We have been making pom poms and rainbows at home to add to the collection (when on our daily exercise walk!).
Symbolising hope and connectedness which is much needed at the moment. Beautiful in its simplicity.
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer
This week’s theme is Parenting During Lockdown. Many of us are at home with babies, toddlers, children and/or teenagers. We might have to balance work commitments and caring responsibilities and/or supporting our children’s education. Some of us may be shielding or vulnerable. Some of us are key workers who are facing the need to go to work and leave children at home with partners or childcare hubs.
Whatever our circumstances, this period may be tough on our mental health and our relationships. Whilst there may be challenges with parenting in lockdown around routines, missing social contact, staying in and behaviour. There are also exciting opportunities to get to know our children better, to learn new things together and to be together as a family.
On the theme of kindness we sometimes forget that the most important person to be kind to is ourselves. I love this poem by Ms Moem because it suggests that the kinder we are to ourselves, the more empathy we gain for others and in turn, the more kindness we have to share.
Suicide Bereavement Support Officer
You Deserve Kindness | Poem
You deserve kindness. I mean it. It’s true.
Yes, you deserve kindness, from me, and from you.
Be kind to yourself when you see your reflection.
There’s only one you, and no such thing as perfection.
Beware the inner critic who lives in your mind
and break free from its prison that holds you confined.
It might tell you you’re ugly, or stupid, or worse
but frankly, its outlook is simply perverse.
So be kind to yourself, and to others around;
Lift yourself up instead of putting yourself down.
You’re magnificent as you are, if you don’t know it yet
and you do deserve kindness. Please don’t ever forget.
You Deserve Kindness is a short poem by Ms Moem. ©
Online safeguarding software will protect students both during lockdown and when schools reopen
Justin Reilly, CEO, safeguarding specialist, Impero
Working as a teacher and school advisor for most of my career, I have witnessed first-hand the essential safeguarding role teachers play. Teachers invest countless hours engaging with their students to form a bond of trust, and besides parents, teachers have the highest chance of identifying concerning patterns and warning signs early.
More than half of British schools log these concerns using paper-based filing systems. However, the national lockdown has laid bare the inadequacies of this system: teachers are unable to access their usual systems, meaning that new incidents are logged as isolated incidents (if at all) and kept offsite. Consequently, child protection referrals have dropped by more than 50 percent (as reported by The Guardian).
We must ensure that teachers are ‘safeguarding enabled’ as children’s wellbeing, and in some cases, lives, are at stake. To do so, we must turn from the filing cabinet to the cloud: we recently launched a free-forever online safeguarding solution for schools across the country, allowing them to report incidents, review records and easily collaborate with other professionals. The solution is called Back:drop, and it is available now. Crucially, it will provide staff with a continuous safeguarding record, so when schools reopen, teachers can start connecting the dots, spotting concerns and getting every child the help they may need.
What is Impero Back:drop?
At Impero, we were already in the late stages of developing the Back:drop software when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The associated lockdown made it clear that our technology needed to be made available to all schools as a matter of urgency.
Teachers and staff members, who are currently fulfilling most of their responsibilities from home using the internet, can connect to Back:drop from any web-connected device. Staff can easily log concerns, and they are then stored in the cloud where they can be reviewed by other staff, optionally shared with parents, and forwarded on to external agencies where necessary. Rather than leaning on emails or other unfit-for-purpose systems for safeguarding, this dedicated platform is secure, purpose-built, and accessible and staff can use it just as well while working from home as they can in the classroom.
Back:drop will remain free forever, providing a safe and robust alternative to paper slips, ensuring that no child is overlooked or neglected as a result of an administrative error.
Preventing self-harm and suicide
Safeguarding is more vital now than ever, but it cannot be conducted effectively if schools rely on inaccessible paper-based systems or scattered, decentralised stopgaps. Back:drop is free, secure and online, and we hope that schools adopt it to ensure that every child gets the help they need – both during the lockdown and once classrooms reopen.
Teaching during lockdown has produced some unique challenges. Whilst it has shown how flexible we can be in rapidly switching to online learning platforms, it has once again highlighted the issue of social inequality with regards to accessing education. Not every child has access to a tablet or laptop, and in many cases are sharing these devices with their siblings, both for education and for entertainment.
On a personal level, I have found this troubling. I, like I’m sure all teachers did, came into this job because I care about children. I want the best for them and for each child to realise their potential. Not seeing my class, engaging with them, making sure they are ok educationally and personally, fills me with anxiety. Are they ok? Am I doing my best for them? I have to bring myself back to understanding my spheres of influence, and by providing regular resources, entertaining content and by keeping in touch with parents via online platforms. I’m doing what I can. Which is all anyone can do in these unprecedented times.
My advice for parents of primary age children during lockdown is just read, read and read some more. Share your favourite stories from childhood. Use Newsround to keep up to date with the wider world. Go out into the garden, find some insects or flowers. Categorize these through similar features or use books and internet resources (if able) to identify them and learn about the world in your back garden. Follow some recipes and cook together. All of these activities teach valuable life skills including developing a wider vocabulary, practical math skills and the ability for children to work scientifically. More importantly, they are activities that bring you together, because now more than ever, being there for each other is the greatest thing we can do.
Some useful apps and online tools
- Class Dojo (school-based chat system for enabling children to access work, and allow school communication with parents)
- Read Theory (online system which contains lots and lots of reading comprehension through different text types and quiz-style comprehension questions)
- Epic (website which has access to lots and lots of books to encourage reading for pleasure. Children have the opportunity to have the book read out loud to them by the website)
- Times Table Rockstars (for various times tables-based activities and games, to make times tables fun)
- Purple Mash (teachers can set various curriculum-based challenges that children can complete and respond to via the website)
When you think of ‘creativity’ what do you think about? This was the question that was asked to me when I attended a course called ‘Creativity for Recovery’ at Nottingham Recovery College some years ago. I made a list of all the things I thought were creative: drawing/painting/visual arts, dance, writing, baking, fashion, origami, music and gardening. It was helpful for me to answer this question because I had never really considered myself ‘creative’, that was something other people were and I could only aspire to. But by doing this course I realised I was actually more creative than I had given myself credit for.
Since I was a child I have danced, drawn, written, knitted, played musical instruments and as I grew older became more interested in gardening. I was already a creative being, even though I didn’t recognise it in myself. And I believe that as human beings we are all born with a creative potential inside us – you only have to see young children play to realise how naturally creative we are! But for some reason, this creativity can leave us the older we get, as society starts judging us on what we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be producing creatively, whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The lessons people learn in school, for example, can sometimes be particularly damaging as we are graded on the piece of work that is produced, which is not evaluated on its own merit but is held up for comparison with others. I have heard many people speak of how music teachers told them to stand at the back of the class because they ‘couldn’t sing’… This can lead to people switching off their creative selves.
This certainly was the case for me. The things I loved as a child slowly became less appealing to me as I got older and was assessed and graded for my efforts. I started to feel ‘not good enough’, and lost a love for the creative process in itself. This remained the case for many years, until I experienced a serious mental health crisis and found myself referred to the Recovery College. It was here that I began to throw out all those old messages about not being good enough. Here the focus was on self-expression and creating for the pleasure and benefits of doing so.
And there are many benefits to our mental health from creative activities, such as for the enjoyment or as a distraction, to express our feelings, offer satisfaction and to give us something positive to focus on. It can help with reducing anxiety and bring us into more social situations where we might make new friends and feel less isolated. It can be great for reducing tension and helping us to relax. It is known to boost self esteem and confidence, increase self awareness and offer a meaning and purpose to life. Creativity can help us simply ‘be’ in the moment, which is a key aspect of mindfulness practice. I particularly believe, as a person-centred therapist, that creative expression is a natural part of a healthy life, which can help reveal the infinite potential of us all to grow and become more fully ourselves. And above all else it can offer us hope – with a little bit of imagination anything can seem possible.
The paradox I’ve found with my own mental health and creativity is that when I am struggling the most, I don’t have the energy or motivation to do the things that I know will be helpful for me. Picking up my pen to write, or sitting down at my piano to play are usually the last things I want to do. This is when it is so important to be kind to myself and recognise the limitations I have at that moment. Maybe the step I am trying to take is too big and I need to break it down into smaller, more manageable bite-size pieces. These are the times when it is enough to just put on some music that I love and get out my colouring book. Just half an hour spent doing some creative activity can be just the tonic to help lift my mood on the most difficult days. When even this isn’t possible then just sitting outside in nature and admiring the beauty around me is a creative act that can help me feel more connected to and positive about my life.
So even if you don’t think you have it in you, give it a go anyway and maybe you will awake your very own creative self!
Primary/Secondary Care Mental Health Staff – We need you!
The University of Nottingham and Harmless are conducting research into suicide prevention in primary and secondary healthcare settings.
We are inviting professionals who may often deal with vulnerable patients who self-harm or are at risk of suicide, to share their insights and experiences in a short and anonymous online survey.
What are we asking participants to do?
We are inviting frontline staff, and researchers in this field, to complete an online survey, which takes no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. The survey explores facilitators, constraints and barriers to effective suicide prevention in primary and secondary healthcare settings. All answers are completely anonymous and participants will not be identifiable.
What is the purpose of this study?
We are seeking to identify barriers to effective suicide prevention in primary and secondary healthcare settings, in order to inform future research and ultimately deliver best practice guidelines for frontline professionals. This research has been identified as a research priority.
Can you help to ensure that the guidelines we deliver are informed by the staff who will use them?
To find out more and take part in the survey please visit:
Researcher: Laura Chadwick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Supervisor: Joanna Lockwood (Joanna.email@example.com)