A new approach to wellbeing is teaching emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy and self-awareness to schoolchildren in Cheshire – with the aim of helping young people improve their mental health.
The approach is called the REST EASY method. REST EASY stands for Recognise Emotions, Stop Think, Engage Awareness and Support Yourself. The new approach combines dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), mindfulness, positive psychology and life coaching to enable young people to help themselves with their mental wellbeing.
The approach was developed by Emily Gearing to prevent mental illness in young people. Many of the methods incorporated by REST EASY are only usually available for young people after a mental health problem has been diagnosed. Access to treatment by specialist practitioners is often restricted by long waiting lists.
Initially REST EASY was taught over six to eight weeks in workshops or in one-to-one sessions with parents and young people. Emily was asked to deliver the programme to Year 6 pupils at Tattenhall Primary School while they were preparing for their SATs. The programme proved so successful with pupils and staff that it has now been used across the school for over a year.
Emily and her team of trained REST EASY coaches are currently delivering the programme in schools in Cheshire and Shropshire. Emily hopes to expand the programme nationally and internationally. REST EASY was recently commended by think tank Parliament Street in a report about education and mental health, and the programme is being supported by the Innovation Agency.
Emily said: “I believe that mental illness can be prevented if children and young people are offered the right tools and techniques to manage their emotions. It’s my mission to educate 6-25 year olds and their parents or carers in the REST EASY method as a way of achieving this.”
Indi Singh, commercial programme manager at the Innovation Agency said: “By being delivered in schools the REST EASY approach is providing young people with access to methods for managing their own mental health and wellbeing. Poor mental health is a significant and growing issue among young people but access to the right treatment is often limited due to increasing pressures on healthcare.
“REST EASY is an example of how an innovative approach, bringing skills and knowledge to young people in the classroom, can help prevent mental health problems from developing – and help reduce pressures on valuable healthcare services. I look forward to seeing this approach adopted more widely in schools across the country.”
Jo Hawkins, Head Teacher of Tattenhall Park Primary School, said: "REST EASY has been an effective system to implement to support pupils during break and lunchtimes which are more unstructured periods. Some pupils had identified these as times that they might struggle. Having trained midday staff and support staff meant that the children had access to the correct support in a timely fashion. They could identify their emotions and strategies which might assist them thus building resilience.
“Feedback from pupils has been positive. We have additionally implemented short periods after lunch where children return to the classroom to relaxing music and are taught breathing techniques. This five-minute session has been very useful in preparing pupils for their learning in the afternoon. The methods complement our existing practice in school and have enhanced our support of pupils’ wellbeing.”