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/

Farhana Maleque

Farhana Maleque

Farhana is a psychology graduate from Sussex University and currently undertaking motivational interviewing training. She works as an assistant psychologist in an inpatient psychiatric hospital in the NHS. She’s actively involved in running psychological groups like mindfulness, wellbeing, recovery and self compassion, as well as working with peer support workers (individuals with lived experience) to run co-produced training and workshops for staff and the community. She is also working as a research assistant in a number of service development projects. Her special interests lie in developing ones self-awareness and self compassion. She is also motivated in normalizing and reframing people’s view on different mental health difficulties by exploring and understanding a range of contributing factors. These include relationships, childhood experiences, life events, stressors and others. Farhana is passionate about working and learning from those with lived experience and carers, and help empower them to look at themselves and others as humans, steering away from labels to recognize and appreciate their unique set of skills, values, hopes and dreams. Through the work with Inspirited Minds, she is eager to reach out to everyone, specifically individuals from black, ethnic minority backgrounds, the Muslim community, young people, and those who are experiencing or have experienced social injustice, so we can start valuing and openly talk about our mental health like we do with our physical health when we go to the doctors.

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