There seems to be a day or week dedicated to everything imaginable to remind us of how important those things are, whether it’s Mother’s Day, Earth Day, Anti-Bullying Day, Remembrance Day, or Mental Health Week.
At Pear Tree, we believe that in order to bring about meaningful change, the values that are promoted in one day, or even one week events, need to be seamlessly integrated in your way of life – not treated as annual reminders.
Every day is Mental Health Week. Every day is Anti-Bullying Day. And so on.
Among the many wonderful attributes of Pear Tree School, we are known and respected for our whole-child approach, which means that we treat social-emotional (AKA socio-emotional) and physical development with the same level of importance as academic development.
To some people, it might seem strange for a school to treat these things with equal importance. Shouldn’t academics be the priority? The answer for us is clearly ‘no’.
Academic development is directly reliant upon the socio-emotional and physical development of our students.
Let’s explore some reasons for why it’s essential to foster mental health in schools.
Before Pear Tree even opened, the key argument for having a whole-child approach was this:
What’s the point of being academically successful, if you lack the socio-emotional and/or physical ability to do anything with that outside of educational institutions?
I’m sure that you know of people who did well at school that weren’t able to live up to their potential, because of lack of self-esteem, depression, the fear of change, or health problems caused by obesity or substance abuse.
Luck also plays a significant role in success, which also leads to the above-related issues.
The average person lives with the knowledge and frustration that they could have done so much more with their lives had they been equipped with the things that (most) schools don’t teach you.
More recent examples include Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Alexander McQueen, and Avicii.
Many others are considered ‘accidental deaths‘ despite being induced by the person’s lifestyle (e.g. alcohol or drug abuse).
Worse, still, than the suicides of successful adults (whether young or old) are the suicides of children.
As with adult suicides, child suicides are a cry for help.
There is a long list of causes for child suicides. There are situations in a child’s home life which lead to thinking they shouldn’t be alive. There are situations in some schools and their absurd academic demands which can lead to such feelings of desperation and helplessness. And, there are situations where issues at school spill over to the home life or online life, such as with the Amanda Todd tragedy.
Bear in mind that child suicides are rarely covered in the media nowadays due to the risk of copycat suicides.
Among those child suicides are those that think it necessary to punish others before taking their own life, i.e. the ever-growing list of high school shooters – again something that media coverage can exacerbate.
The causes for suicide can be singular or complex depending on the ability of the child to cope with such life challenges.
A more recent phenomena that has led to increased mental health issues with children is COVID policies.
Let’s be clear, it isn’t COVID-19 that has caused mental health issues with children; it is the policies put in place by governments and the accompanying fear-mongering by politicians and the mainstream media.
“You could be killing your parents, grandparents by spreading COVID-19, Murphy tells young N.J. residents”https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/12/you-could-be-killing-your-parents-grandparents-by-spreading-covid-19-murphy-tells-young-nj-residents.html
While it was inevitable that COVID policies, such as lockdowns, business closures, school closures, social distancing, and even face masks would have consequences to the mental health of not just adults, but children as well, governments were extremely slow to acknowledge or respond to this.
Back in July 2020, the general public were already voicing their concerns about the likelihood of severe mental health consequences as a result of COVID policies.
Yet, it wasn’t until the summer of 2021 that governments started to recognise the impact that their policies had had on the mental health of the public.
At that point, it was a case of damage limitation and trying to fix the damage that has been done.
Now, in 2022, the BC government is being smarter about it. They finally recognise the importance of preventative measures.
And, ironically, the media is now writing articles about the ‘mystifying rise in child suicide‘ – something that was certainly predictable at the start of the pandemic, as well as before then with growing economic challenges and burdens facing young people.
I’m pleased to say that the BC Ministry of Education is being proactive with promoting preventative mental health strategies in schools.
In their accompanying PDF guide, they highlight some very important considerations:
The BC Ministry of Education’s Mental Health in Schools Strategy really goes hand-in-hand with what Pear Tree School has been doing all along.
Given the long list of potential causes of mental health issues, Pear Tree School endeavours to equip its students with the tools to prevent mental health issues and to know what to do when such issues inevitably do arise, e.g. to seek support, to use your words, etc.
We foster the skills and strategies children need for their whole lives on an academic, socio-emotional and physical level.
We build socio-emotional development into every moment of the day:
Our theme-based approach means that there are constant opportunities to reflect upon our own self image and place in the world, and the challenges facing other people around us and in the world. Within the themes are skills and activities that foster self confidence and the ability to work both independently and in groups. We also build in the arts, which help develop better mental health.
Our project-based learning approach, which is an extension of our themes, offers constant opportunity for collaboration, which requires socio-emotional and communication skills.
The learning at Pear Tree is fun, but it’s also challenging. With this in mind, our educators ensure that the learning is appropriately challenging for each and every student.
Our healthy hot lunch program provides our students with the nutrition they need for healthy brain and body development, as well as the day-to-day energy they need to avoid emotions and irrationality caused by hunger or nutritionally deficient foods.
Our daily physical education program provides students with a healthy, active lifestyle that leads to positive self image. It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. The daily 1-hour P.E. classes are in addition to the 45 minutes of outdoor recess time built into every school day at Pear Tree.
Across all of these areas (academic and physical), we are also developing resilience, grit and fortitude. Things can and do go wrong.
Listen to this wonderful clip of Tom Hanks in the persona of Mr. Rogers explaining appreciating life’s ups and downs (https://youtube.com/clip/UgkxeFeodJV45rOJwEvM9dsf6zB2jWB7zJl9)
Our school community is positive, welcoming, and supportive. Everyone supports everyone, because we understand that by helping others, we are also helping ourselves, whether it’s through feeling good about helping others or from the reciprocation of good deeds. Friendships and inclusiveness create a sense of belonging, which is vital for a child’s success.
Mental health needs to be treated in a preventative way.
Just as with any other problem, it is better to prevent the problem from occurring or escalating rather than trying to fix a serious crisis.
Mental health issues that are allowed to grow can be for life, i.e. something that a person ends up managing for their whole life.
If you’re looking for a school that supports your child’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their academic growth, schedule a visit to Pear Tree School using our private tour calendar.