Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing

At Gusford Primary School, we believe in promoting positive mental health and emotional wellbeing to ensure that the school is a community where everyone feels able to thrive. Our school ethos and values underpin everything that we do.

Who has mental health?

We all have mental health – some people call this emotional health or wellbeing.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as a state of wellbeing in which every individual achieves their potential, copes with the normal stresses of life, works productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and act.

Good mental health and wellbeing is just as important as good physical health. Like physical health, mental health can range across a spectrum from healthy to unwell; it can fluctuate on a daily basis and change over time.

Most children grow up mentally healthy, but surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. It is thought that this is probably because of changes in the way that we live now and how that affects the experience of growing up.

What helps?

Things that can help keep children and young people mentally well include:

  • being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
  • having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors
  • being part of a family that gets along well most of the time
  • going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils
  • taking part in local activities for young people.

Other factors are also important, including:

  • feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe
  • being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves
  • being hopeful and optimistic
  • being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed
  • accepting who they are and recognising what they are good at
  • having a sense of belonging in their family, school and community
  • feeling they have some control over their own life
  • having the strength to cope when something is wrong (resilience) and the ability to solve problems.

What happens in school?

In school, we teach children about what it means to have good mental health and wellbeing throughout our curriculum and daily practice.

Our PSHE curriculum focuses specifically on developing children’s social and emotional skills which can prevent poor mental health from developing and help all children cope effectively with setbacks and remain healthy. It is about helping children to understand and manage their thoughts, feelings and behaviour and build skills that help them to thrive, such as working in a team, persistence, and self-awareness.

What if my child is experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing?

Mental health doesn’t mean being happy all the time and neither does it mean avoiding stresses altogether. One of the most important ways to help your child is to listen to them and take their feelings seriously.

In many instances, children and young people’s negative feelings and worries usually pass with the support of their parents and families. It is helpful for the school to know what they are going through at these times, so that staff can be aware of the need and support this.

Coping and adjusting to setbacks are critical life skills for children, just as they are for adults, but it is important that they develop positive, rather than negative, coping skills.

If you are ever worried about your child’s mental health and wellbeing then, just as you would about any concerns that you have about their learning, come and talk to us. Sometimes children will need additional support for a short period – this may be in the form of a daily check-in with a trusted adult or support from our ELSA team where they will have time to talk through what they are feeling and develop ways of moving forward.

ELSA - Emotional Literacy Support Assistants

Gusford has a full-time  trained emotional literacy support assistant (ELSA) - Mrs Crocker.

What is ELSA?

There will always be children in school finding life challenging which can impact on their ability to engage with learning. Some of these children will require greater support to increase their emotional literact than others. ELSA is an initiative developed and supported by educational psychologists. It recognises that children are more able to learn, and are happier in school, if their emotional needs are also addressed.

The majority of ELSA work will be delivered on an individual basis, but sometimes small group work is more appropriate, especially in the areas of social or friendship skills. Sessions are fun, we use a range of activities such as: games, role-play with puppets, creative crafts or therapeutic activities such as mindfulness.

ELSA aims to provide support for a wide range of emotional needs:

  • Recognising & naming emotions
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem
  • Social skills
  • Friendship skills
  • Anger management
  • Loss & bereavement

ELSAs are not there to fix children's problems, what they can do is provide emotional support. They aim to establish a warm, respectful relationship with a pupil and to provide a reflective space where they are able to share honestly their thoughts and feelings. ELSA is intended to be short-term purposeful support, usually to help develop new skills or coping strategies that enable the pupil to experience greater success.

Mental Health Team

Gusford has a number of staff who are trained as senior mental health leads and  first aiders for children and young people.

Senior Mental HealthLead and First Aiders attend training which looks at how to support young people to recover faster from mental and emotional health issues and how to intervene more effectively at points of mental health crisis.

Our mental health team have been trained to have:

  • An in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support.

Looking after yourself  

If things are getting you down, it’s important to recognise this. Talk to someone you trust and see what they think. It is easy to go on struggling with very difficult situations because you feel that you should be able to cope and don’t deserve any help.

Come and talk to us, in confidence and let us know when things are tough. As much as you try to hide how you are feeling from your child, they will notice even the smallest changes.

Go to your GP if things are really getting on top of you. Asking for some support from your doctor or a referral to a counselling service is a sign of strength. You can’t help your child if you are not being supported yourself.

Further support and guidance can be found below.

Mental health and wellbeing information

Calming Strategies

Finger Breathing

Mental health resources (Children in Need)


Well Being Activities

My Voice Matters 2024

We are going to be working with 'James’ Team' on the ‘It’s Good To Be Me’ project. This is a local initiative set up in collaboration with Andrew Marsh of Dial Lane Books. The project aims to offer each Year 5 child (Year 6 in September) a book which will enrich and nurture their self-confidence and wellbeing as they prepare to transition from primary to secondary school. We are hoping to provide a copy of "You Are Awesome" by Matthew Syed to every child currently in Year 5.

We don't want the current children in Year 6 (Year 7 in September) to miss out either and we want to set up a special workshop for them too.

More details to follow.