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Place2Be launched the first-ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to highlight the importance of children and young people’s mental health. It is now widely acknowledged that mental health and wellbeing are as essential as physical health for children, young people, and the wider population. Protecting mental health at an early age is vitally important to ensure future mental wellbeing and resilience. 

Independent schools in Scotland follow the Scottish Government's ‘whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing, which incorporates eight key principles that emphasise a health-promotion and preventative approach. 

SCIS also facilitate professional learning events throughout the year, including ones on how staff can enhance pupil mental health and wellbeing.  

In a series of blogs, we’ll take a look at how Scotland’s independent schools are supporting the wellbeing of their pupils. In this blog, we spoke to Danny Rowlands, Deputy Head of Wellbeing at Merchiston about the work they are doing as part of Children’s Mental Health Week, and the systems they have in place to support pupil mental health and wellbeing year-round. 


A culture of wellbeing 

Wellbeing underpins everything we do at Merchiston. It is what makes for meaningful and connected conversations. It is how we get to know our students really well, allowing us to support and motivate them. Pupils thrive because they feel understood, valued, and supported in everything they do.  

As part of Merchiston’s work for Children’s Mental Health Week, we are focusing on ‘the 12 Habits for Happiness’. 

All too often, happiness is considered to be the default state enjoyed in the absence of any form of pathology: if people are not unhappy, they must be happy. If we have not suffered any misfortune, then we have, in a way, been fortunate.  

But to confine happiness to something which is only available in the absence of something else, something which is, essentially, a fluke of fate, seems to do it- and us- rather a disservice. 


Actively pursuing happiness  

Happiness is indeed something that needs to be actively pursued, and those who enjoy happiness often do not do so simply through good fortune.  

Helpfully, various studies have observed that there are common behavioural traits amongst happy people and these have been enshrined in ‘The 12 Happiness Habits’: 

  • Learn to play 
  • Express gratitude 
  • Savour the positive 
  • Harness your strengths 
  • Live with meaning 
  • Learn optimism 
  • Value relationships 
  • Practice kindness 
  • Get physical 
  • Turn to nature 
  • Practise mindfulness 
  • Strive for success. 

You can see how Merchiston students and staff have been exploring the 12 Habits for Happiness in this video. 

There is no ‘hap’ in making these things happen, though the first 12-week term of the academic year rather conveniently lent itself to celebrating one habit each week to instil amongst our boys.  

We have enjoyed assemblies at all levels highlighting individual happiness habits; encouraged play with wild outdoor camps and water sports trips; and displayed gratitude towards our friends and staff across the school.  

With a plethora of outlets for these goals, and by making good practice a habit, there is a real buzz around Merchiston with huge excitement about the opportunities for learning the coming months will bring. 


Many thanks to Danny Rowlands of Merchiston for his contribution to this blog.  

If you are considering registering your child at a Scottish Independent School, SCIS can help – use our find a school tool or get in touch with us today.