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About social, emotional and mental health

All adults in school have a role in promoting the wellbeing of all children. Children and young people are often unable to verbally express their unmet social and emotional needs. They may try to communicate by becoming withdrawn or isolated or displaying disruptive or disturbing behaviour. Severely withdrawn or passive behaviour may also be an indicator of an unmet need. Behaviour may be related to social, personal or physical contexts. These behaviours may also reflect underlying mental health difficulties such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • self-harming
  • substance misuse
  • eating disorders
  • physical symptoms that are medically unexplained.

Children are constantly learning and their behaviour may be difficult to manage at times. It does not necessarily mean that a child or young person has a special educational need or disability (SEND). Remember that behaviour is a form of communication. Your first response should be to seek further information into possible causes for the behaviours you are seeing. This may include social, relational or environmental issues.

Issues such as housing, family or other domestic circumstances may be contributing to the presenting behaviour. In such instances a multi-agency approach, supported by the use of the Early Help Plan may be appropriate.

Children and young people may need small group and more intensive support in addition to the universal curriculum which teaches social and emotional skills.

Social and emotional skills help children to:

  • Identify and manage their feelings and behaviour
  • Build healthy relationships
  • Have self-control
  • Resolve conflict
  • Be self-aware
  • Handle and overcome difficulties
  • Make good decisions
  • Build resilience, self-esteem and confidence
  • Think positively about themselves and how they perceive the world around them

Disruptive or withdrawn behaviours can also be an indication of unmet SEND. Where there are consistent concerns about behaviour, further work should be undertaken. Explore whether there are any undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with communication or mental health issues.

If the child or young person is expressing unexplained medical symptoms, fatigue, or pain, consider advising the family to discuss this with their G.P. as early support and diagnosis from health and psychological services could be crucial.

In all cases, early identification and intervention can have a significant impact. A timely response can reduce the need for more expensive and intensive interventions in the long-term.

Last updated 2 October 2020

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