Traditionally, school communities have relied primarily on infrequent large scale surveys and teacher observations in order to effectively manage wellbeing. Whilst these remain important support structures, it is now recognized that wellbeing can change rapidly from week to week and that very few will communicate this, even if they are under severe psychological distress. Equally concerning is that many of the threats we face to our wellbeing today take place ‘under the surface’ and are ever present due to our increasingly advanced mechanisms for bullying, discriminating, spreading idealism and inducing anxiety. For students, these threats can manifest quickly, quietly and in many forms, which is why regular student voice has become an integral part of managing the increasingly complex wellbeing issues that our children and young people face.
Challenge 1 - Wellbeing fluctuates rapidly
Research out of unicef found that 1 in 4 adolescents reported 2 or more mental health symptoms more than once per week. Our systems for managing wellbeing must be reflective of the speed at which it can change. Observing trends from real time wellbeing data allows for fast action and aids teachers in building strong relational connection.
Challenge 2 - Very few communicate
There remains considerable fear and stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing. And despite its growing prevalence, very few will seek help when they need it most. Our research has shown that this is not due to an unwillingness from children and young people to speak up but rather down to not having the right outlets in place. This willingness has been demonstrated by online activity on our social platforms, which we elaborate on further in our article ‘A Lesson From Social Media About Wellbeing Management’. In a busy school environment however, students are afforded very few opportunities to speak about their wellbeing in a comfortable, safe and engaging manner.
Regular wellbeing check-in addresses these two challenges
The regular check-in has become a critical component of effective wellbeing management largely due to its ability to engage students' voices in a quick and simple way, and provide real time understanding of wellbeing for teachers and senior leaders. It starts the dialogue between students, staff and families for what can become life changing conversations. These conversations are not just addressing immediate wellbeing issues but also sharing stories of gratitude and aspirations that help foster happy, safe and connected school communities.