A forensic psychologist reflects on the power of empathy and active listening to support young people’s mental health in the latest Tutorcast podcast.

In a wide-ranging conversation between our host Vicky Sadler, Tutor Trust’s Deputy Director of Training, and Jo Meredith (right), Director of our specialist Tutoring Plus service, they share some of the challenges young people are facing post-pandemic, and how educators can make a positive difference to young people’s mental health in the classroom.

And they seek out answers from an expert. In our first podcast-within-a-podcast, Jo catches up with Nicole, a forensic psychologist with a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

Nicole explains how CAMHS are seeing more young people with mental health difficulties, and more anxiety, especially around education and school: “I think having been schooled from home has definitely impacted them – probably more than we know right now.” 

With emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression on the rise in young people, and those who have faced adversity – perhaps due to living in poverty, family circumstances or whose parents have poor mental health – more likely to have poor mental health, how can educators build that trusted connection with their pupils?

Simply recognising that someone is struggling is the first step, says Nicole.

Offering a listening ear definitely helps, because sometimes young people feel that they have not been listened to or it’s not been recognised that they are struggling. So definitely listening to their stories and validating them as well – that’s not saying that you know how someone feels, but it’s saying that I understand you may be struggling now but is there anything I can do to make you feel safer.”

Jo’s team support some of the North’s most vulnerable learners, many of whom have greater barriers to education than their peers and who may be unable to access mainstream education perhaps because of illness or exclusion, or are cared for children. She mentions Tutor Trust’s successful randomised control trial that proved the impact of a strong connection between tutor and tutee in improving outcomes. She asks how else we can forge strong relationships with tutees.

"Find the common ground,” says Nicole. “If you like music, latch on to that or play games . . . and get a common interest first, then build your relationship on that.  It’s just about trust. As soon as you build that trust that’s the ingredient to a good relationship.

Tutorcast is one of the development tool for our tutors, and part of our ongoing support to them, alongside tutorials and CPD sessions.

The next CPD for tutors is with Liz Birchinall on Tuesday 28 March at 4pm-5pm.  ‘Lighten the Load –  smarter learning with cognitive load theory’, will help tutors discover how to make tuition more impactful for their tutees. Tutor Trust tutors can find more information and book a place on the Zoom session through the Thinqi platform.

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