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21 August 2018

Early interventions on mental health

In a society where 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem*, our team at the All Saints Mental Health Supported Housing Project are taking the proactive approach by delivering mental health training in local schools.

Louisa Gough, Support Worker for our All Saints Mental Health Supported Housing Project, tell us more about one of their sessions:


“On Thursday 21st June, a few colleagues and I headed off to Nottingham Academy Primary to deliver our first official run through of the mental health training we had put together.

“When we entered the classroom I was hugely impressed with the positive messages on display throughout the class, not only the school’s very clear anti-bullying stance, but the general message that being kind and supportive to one another is what’s expected in class - a great start.
   
“We set up our resources before a quick chat with the teacher about the students and the session we had planned.
  
“We were soon joined by around 28 eager little faces. The students were a year 5 class and much less terrifying than I had expected. We discovered within the first few moments that there was nothing to be nervous about; the kids were clearly pleased to have us there and very interested to hear what we had to say.
  
“The session started with a little bit of interaction and some comparisons between physical and mental health, which they seemed to get the hang of quite quickly. We then split the class into two groups and gave them an activity, which was to discuss terms we might use to talk about mental illness and mental health. I think our only mistake in this activity was underestimating how well and how much the students would engage with us. Not only did they have plenty to say but they were incredibly thoughtful. Some of the comments were completely unexpected and opened up into new conversations, which we hadn't expected.

“I think what we hadn’t banked on was the knowledge and understanding that the students already had. Before the session we had made a decision to only touch very briefly on eating disorders and self harm, both things, which the students brought up before we had even reached that point in the session.

“The next activity was discussing appropriate and inappropriate terms to use when speaking about someone with a mental illness. The kids were spot on with their answers and also posed some interesting points for discussion, quite a few of them discussing context and intent – amazing!

“Later on there was a point in the session when two students disclosed their own experiences of mental health, they chose to share this openly with the class and I think we were all blown away by not only the bravery of these two individuals, but by the reaction to them - a credit to the school’s approach to anti-bullying and being supportive of one another. Both were reassured that their disclosures would be followed up by the teaching staff after the session.
  
“As the session came to an end, something happened, which I think sums up not just the success of the session, but the understanding and intelligence of the students we were talking to. I had a small activity planned where I would ask the group “what do you think someone with a mental illness looks like?”, so I stood poised with my marker and flip chart ready to write down the words they called out. In my naivety, the responses I expected were words like ‘scruffy/unkempt’ etc. However, the response I actually got was from a little voice at the back, who put her hand up and said “we wouldn’t know what someone with a mental illness looks like, they just look like everyone else”.

“This ended the session on a really good note and we waved goodbye to Class 5. After which, we had a quick debrief with the class teacher and the general consensus was that the session had gone really well, but would benefit from some tweaking for the different age groups.
  
“We’re really looking forward to delivering the next one and hopefully getting the opportunity to reach more schools around Nottingham.”

*Mental Health Statistics on Young People