By Mark Balaam, CEO and Founder of imabi
Safeguarding mental wellbeing in schools continues to be a pressing concern, and never before has it been more important for education providers to integrate technology as a support tool. During Children’s Mental Health Week, we consider the complexities of school life for children — and with the awareness week having a theme of ‘My Voice Matters’ this year, also ways in which education providers can best offer support.
Pooling essential resources
Technology, when used responsibly and appropriately, has a unique capability to work alongside existing mental wellbeing initiatives in schools. One of its primary advantages lies in its ability to provide essential resources and support networks. Digital platforms offer a wealth of educational materials, counselling services, and peer support groups tailored to address diverse mental health needs. By leveraging these resources and making them readily available to students, schools can create a supportive ecosystem where students feel empowered to seek assistance and guidance when navigating mental health challenges.
Establishing new communication channels
Technology is also capable of supporting early intervention and prevention strategies, especially with situations such as bullying. By simply offering students the ability to report unwanted behaviours, key decision makers can open crucial communication channels that allow them to be proactive in their approach. Our imabi Inspire platform is a great example of a technology that provides this function, having had a huge impact on schools across the UK, including Barking Abbey School in London. At this particular school, within in the first two months of launch, the platform saw more than 30 reports from students – providing a vital window into incidents and scenarios teachers were previously unaware of.
By offering students the opportunity to report incidents digitally, either anonymously or named, educators and pastoral staff can intervene proactively and offer timely support. This proactive approach not only mitigates the risk of escalation but helps create a culture of safeguarding that is beneficial to both staff and students.
Prioritise online safety
For the majority of school aged children, the digital landscape can present a whole host of potential safeguarding risks — many of which have the capability to negatively impact their mental wellbeing. Digital literacy and online safety education are essential tools in combating the various online risks they are exposed to, which include cyberbullying, predatory behaviour, and consuming harmful content.
Schools, once again, can take a proactive approach to this — equipping students with the knowledge and skills to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. Through techniques such as interactive workshops and educational games, students can learn to discern credible sources, protect their privacy, and adopt positive digital behaviours.
Striking a balance
Of course, despite the importance of technology, human connection and empathy will always be an essential component of supporting young people’s mental health. While digital platforms can supplement traditional support services, they should not replace the essential role of face-to-face interactions. Schools must strike a balance between leveraging technology as a tool for empowerment and ensuring that students receive the emotional support they need to thrive.
Ultimately, when used responsibly, technology serves as a powerful ally in protecting and nurturing the minds of the next generation. At imabi, we understand that every student is unique and have designed a platform that is an indispensable resource for staff and students. I have witnessed first-hand the impact technology can have, and anticipate it playing an even more important role in the future.
Mark Balaam is a White Ribbon ambassador and safeguarding expert with more than 30 years of experience in the sector. He’s also CEO & founder of imabi, a safeguarding platform offering real-time actionable support to users, as well as empowering them to report crimes and access essential supportive materials and services – all within one place. imabi, which recently partnered with Crimestoppers, also provides the technology behind the British Transport Police’s Railway Guardian app.