Wellington College Head of Student Emotional Health & Wellbeing Dr Jenny Griggs discusses how to use the NHS’ ‘Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing’ to help young people

Wellington College is a pioneer in placing wellbeing within mainstream education, having introduced its first course in happiness and wellbeing in 2006. Now, as the College prepares to open its new Wellbeing Centre, it is a good time to review the NHS’ ‘Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing’ that will underpin the Centre’s work.

1. Make connections

Social connection is fundamental to wellbeing – young people need to ‘find their tribe’. At school, co-curricular clubs are a fantastic way of connecting with like-minded peers – Wellington has over 150 to choose from. The house system encourages close bonds particularly with the support of the prefects, while affinity groups provide a safe space to discuss shared experiences. Parents can actively support their child’s relationships by helping them to find sociable hobbies and facilitating catch-ups with friends in the holidays. 

2. Get active

Exercise is good for mental and physical health. Wellington is renowned as a sporting school, and with an emphasis on inclusion. Pupils can choose from a wide range of physical activities including hockey, golf, lacrosse, triathlon, tennis, dance, equestrianism and cricket. At home parents can help by suggesting walks in the fresh air (a café at the end is a great motivator). Also encourage weekend sporting activities or find out if your child would like to join a gym with a friend.

3. Learn for fun

While learning a skill brings a sense of achievement, it’s also good for teenagers to have a go at something just for the sake of it. Both inside and outside school we should encourage children to try things simply for fun. We want Wellington pupils to be the best version of themselves but also to relish the pleasure of doing something they love – with no bigger agenda than that. Such activities can cultivate a deep sense of wellbeing.

Wellington College on the wellbeing top 5
Learning something with no other agenda than fun is a great wellbeing boost for young people, says Dr Jenny Griggs of Wellington College

4. Give back

Giving back is an integral part of our ethos and each house has its own dedicated charity that pupils fundraise for. Our Global Citizenship programme helps pupils understand how they can have a positive impact on society, while student mental health ambassadors run ‘random acts of giving’ days, and other initiatives. At home, the best approach is to role model kindness. This could be as simple as letting someone out a junction or helping out a neighbour.

5. Be mindful

We teach mindfulness as part of the Wellbeing curriculum at Wellington, and it can help pupils to switch off from the busy pace of modern life. As a parent, one of the best ways to demonstrate mindfulness is by being fully present when interacting with your child.  Give your teenager your full (phone free!) attention to convey care and interest and emphasise the importance of slowing down. 

These five steps to wellbeing form the basis of Wellington’s new Wellbeing Centre. It will be a peaceful hub where students can hang out, learn new skills, exercise and try different wellbeing techniques, as well as accessing counselling and healthcare. Facilities will also be made available to the wider community. The Wellbeing Centre is being created because we believe we have a duty of care to provide a holistic one-stop-shop where young people can nurture their physical and mental health – a space where wellbeing lessons can be put into practice.

Wellington College wellingtoncollege.org.uk

Further reading: Natasha Devon on navigating teenage years