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13 May 2024

Guest blog: Mental health in the early years

Guest blog: Mental health in the early years

In this guest blog for Mental Health Awareness Week, Racheal Hovell, Nursery Manager at Kindred White Post, shares the key things she has learned from becoming a mental health first aider.

I have worked in early years for 20+ years, of which I have been a Nursery Manager for the past 10 years. I have seen a big focus on mental health and the well-being of the team around me over the past few years. This prompted an interest in extending my CPD and looking at how we support and guide our team regarding their mental health and well-being.

Previously, I had undertaken a Level 2 course in children’s mental health. I found this to be a good insight into supporting children in their mental health and well-being. Although this course was of huge benefit to myself and the team, I felt I needed to have more understanding and therefore became a mental health first aider, having undertaken a course in January 2024. This course enabled me to learn about the support available, looking at staff members individually, and also gave me confidence with my emotional intelligence.

Becoming a mental health first aider has opened my eyes to the different ways that mental health can affect a person and their everyday lives. It has given me a useful insight into the many different support networks available for help and support, and how to signpost staff towards this support.

I feel this is an important position to hold in the early years sector as we all know how demanding this role can be. We all put our heart and soul into our roles, and at times we forget to take care of ourselves. Being aware of the signs that a staff member could be in crisis is a fundamental part of my role. The confidence to sit and talk to that member of staff and be aware that support is required is vital. We are able to sit, listen, use the correct terminology, and give them a helping hand.

We spend a lot of time with our team, and getting to know them is what makes it work and work well. But there are times when we need to reach out, help, support, and guide. This has a positive impact on the staff but also on the setting and, most importantly, the children we care for.

I have access to many platforms that can support the team and myself. It has also given me an opportunity to look into my own well-being and mental health, and how I can take care of this but also reach out if needed. We, as a company, have an amazing outreach of support. It is important to take care of our needs as we spend many hours looking out for others. To perform at our best, it is vital that we do this. Taking a break, ensuring that we have that time to reflect, and looking after ourselves in the best possible way not only has an impact on us but the staff team as a whole.

In the world that we live in today, having this knowledge and being proactive in recognising the well-being and mental health of our staffing team (and ourselves) creates a strong culture and a supportive environment to ensure that those around us have access to the vast support available for them. Having a mental health first aider who is able to support in this is vital and has enabled me to support my team and others around me.



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