On the 3rd of June I ran a 45 minute workshop on emotional well-being to a group of year 9 students as part of their PSHE class at Swanlea Secondary School in East London. The talk covered a personal account of mental health struggles, with a specific focus on loneliness, stress and anxiety, family relations, suicide, bullying, racism, loss of identity, connection and faith, and also how to identify when you may be struggling and where to seek support. All topics were agreed with the school teacher prior to delivering the workshop.
I observed throughout the session that the young people were not as vocal, which makes sense as it was a sensitive topic, however they appeared contemplative. They engaged well in the written activities and asked brilliant questions towards the end. I provided them the Inspirited Minds booklet on ‘Supporting a friend with a mental illness’ and some young people had taken this away with them. Alhamdullilah.
The young people were also very curious and asked really interesting questions:
What causes mental health?
How often do you get angry?
Why does miss think I have mental health issue?
Why is mental health so important?
How does a person become angry or depressed?
When did you realise you wanted to help other people?
From this experience, it has taught me that the stigma still exists and that education around mental health and emotional wellbeing in the student population, particularly in secondary school, is really needed. It’s made me realise how important it is to support young people to identify and label what they are feeling, how they are coping, and encourage them to discover additional coping strategies. It’s also incredibly important to open up a non-judgmental space where they can discuss this comfortably.
Top tips for Teachers: (1) Encourage your students to write questions and their thoughts on post-it notes in lessons that may cover sensitive topics/ emotional wellbeing. (2) Explain to them the reason of doing this (i.e. to find out how to best meet their needs/ improve lessons etc) and (3) ask them if that’s okay.
If you would like to get involved in raising awareness about mental health in your local community, we are looking to grow our outreach team to different cities around the country. We will ensure that you are fully trained and confident before running workshops & talks. Please visit our website for more information: https://inspiritedminds.org.uk/get-involved/vacancies/