We are seeing an increasing number of our guardianship students coming forward to tell us or someone at school that they are struggling and need help. Sometimes it is our host families and Local Coordinators who notice a worrying change in a student who they are in contact with regularly and we report that back to schools. Situations can escalate quickly and become urgent. Students sometimes need medical advice and intervention. In these situations, schools cannot always help students in the boarding house and, having sought medical advice, ask us to step in and give our support.
We want to help and make a difference but feel we need to learn more about Mental Health problems for young people so we are better equipped to support our students. With this in mind, we are getting our Head Office and Local Coordinators trained so they feel more confident and able to help.
We also have a network of trained host families who we can call on to help us in these situations and who feel ready and prepared to offer the extra support required.
Trained members of the Bright World Team are called Bright World Mental Health Champions
We are not a Crisis Team nor Medical Professionals. Our aim is not to replace a medical professional or a counsellor but to complement their work and offer the best support we possibly can to our students. We need to know why they are feeling like they are, and how we should behave with them to best support their needs and get them through the situation.
People can feel any of the following and fluctuate between them:
Although we are investing in training to learn how to support our students with mental health problems, it is important for schools and parents to understand that we are not and never will be medically trained or qualified as therapists. We are trained to know if a situation has reached a level that we should not try and handle ourselves and we will be vocal about this with schools and overseas parents.
When guardians and schools are taking care of a child who is experiencing serious mental health issues, there are times when we need to refer the child to a medical professional and not try and help them ourselves. These are:
We, as schools also do, refer to the Keeping Children Safe in Education document and in the Mental Health Section which clearly states:
"Only appropriately trained professionals should attempt to make a diagnosis of a mental health problem."
If a student's mental health issue is mild and does not affect them on a daily basis and they are not at serious risk of harm to themselves or others, then time away from school for a change of scenery and some rest and recuperation in a home environment can really help. A school counsellor may recommend to overseas parents and guardians that they might be able to support In these instances. Over the years, Bright World has seen some excellent outcomes from this approach with students then being able to return to school refreshed and able to cope with the rest of the school year. If we can help then we really want to.
If the mental health of a child is more serious, they initially need to be referred to a medical professional. If they are at school, the school has a duty of care to arrange that appointment. If they are under our care in a host family then we take on that responsiblity. This may be a routine appointment with the school or host family's GP (Doctor) or, if more urgent, the child should be taken to the Accident and Emergency Department of the nearest hospital. That medical professional will assess the child and make a decision on the best course of action. If the advice is that they should not return to school but would be safe in a host family, then we will help. If they do not recommend that then obviously we would not be able to.
It is always important to give the child or young person in question a voice. If they say they want to go to a host family then we will help them. Sometimes they are very strongly against leaving school and their feelings must be taken into consideration.
We are guardians and can act on behalf of parents but we do not replace an overseas parent. It is important that the parents are kept fully informed about the situation and we will always seek their permission to act on their behalf in serious circumstances.
It is important for schools to know that these services levy additional costs to overseas parents.
It is vitally important that if we are going to be asked to remove a student from the school boarding house and take them into our care that schools respect our risk assessment and removal procedure and allow us to follow it. This protects us all from missing a vital piece of information and helps us to support the child better.
We ask schools NOT to contact any host families in these instances. They should contact the Local Coordinator for their school or the Bright World Head Office DSL Robbie Piper on firstname.lastname@example.org or Lana Foster DSL on email@example.com Tel: 01273835745. Outside office hours our emergency number should be used.
We will then contact overseas parents, if appropriate, and ask the school to complete our Risk Assessment for the Removal of the student. We assume that by this stage, if a child has reached a serious harm to themselves or others threshold that a medical professional has been consulted and deems the removal appropriate. We will also assume that the child has been consulted and is happy with the arrangement. We hope that schools and parents understand that in serious and life-threatening circumstances, it is important for medical advice to have been sought.
We are all trained Mental Health Champions
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