And it‘s back to school, people. Children are already trying on their new backpacks, parents are counting days till the house becomes a little quieter and teachers are preparing their “how was your summer, kids?” questions. However, some children are not excited, because they don’t feel well in schools. A new study by the University of British Columbia suggests that the sense of belonging is the key to children’s positive mental health.
There are on-going efforts to try and combat bullying in schools. They are necessary, but they do not cover entire mental health situation in schools. Scientists say that the sense of belonging is very important, because, as this new study showed, students felt more optimistic when they felt that they belong in the social environment of the school. Meanwhile, bullying made children feel more pessimistic, but no bullying did not increase the optimism score. It seems like the perfect situation would be where children are not bullied at all and feel safety and belonging in their school.
Scientists say that it is important for the school to create an environment, which encourages positive relationships for students with their peers and teachers. Eva Oberle, the study’s lead author, said: “The take-home message is that schools need to invest in building healthy social climates. Many schools have anti-bullying campaigns, which is great. But our findings suggest that we also need initiatives that actively promote a healthy, supportive environment”. Scientists made these findings after surveying 4,393 Grade 4 students.
Optimism is a good factor to measure mental health. The more optimistic children are, generally the healthier they are. Previously, scientists determined the condition of mental health using symptoms of depression and anxiety. But the absence of these symptoms do not necessarily indicate positive traits of mental health. Scientists say that there are many ways of promoting optimism in school. One of the more creative ideas is a gratitude board where students can pin up messages thanking others. It is a cheap and yet effective way to promote optimism. Bigger programmes are welcomed as well. Children should seek participation in various groups according to their interests – sports, outdoors, literature and so on.
The sense of belonging is underrated. Everyone wants to have friends and strong family. That is what we need as social human beings. That is true in school and out of it.