‘Schools can help Mental Health Awareness Week’

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This annual event usually generates a flurry of activity from press and campaigners around a specific theme (this year’s theme is stress). Whilst this undoubtedly has value, the week inevitably attracts criticism from those who say that mental health issues impact a significant proportion of the population for 52 weeks, not one week, of the year.  Natasha Devon MBE, the former government mental health champion writes in Tes.

In fact, according to a brand new survey commissioned by Bauer Media, 56 per cent of British people have had a mental health issue, debunking the “one in four” statistic that’s endlessly quoted. Incidentally, when I told a colleague of mine who has worked as an NHS psychologist for more than 30 years about the findings of the Bauer study, his words were “that’s more like it”.

This year, however, we face an additional challenge. Because, as you will no doubt be aware, on 19 May Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle. 

Yet, inevitably, the carefully crafted and planned awareness campaigns and fundraising initiatives, which charities and individuals work on for weeks and years leading up to Mental Health Awareness Week, are going to get swallowed up in Royal Wedding pre-coverage.

So, this column is in many ways a call to arms. Below are four ways in which schools and colleges can support activity happening this MHAW. Tell your friends. Take to social media. Shout it from the rooftops. Let’s send an unequivocal message that mental health matters, all year round:

1. Pupil project

Brands, and therefore the media outlets which rely on their sponsorship, really care what young people want, since they dictate forthcoming trends.

The Mental Health Media Charter is a document containing seven simple rules for anyone who wants to speak or write about mental health responsibly. In doing so they can reduce stigma, increase understanding and even save lives. Since its launch for World Mental Health Day in October 2017, more than 50 outlets have signed up, including Tes. In turn, the landscape of mental health reporting has been changed for the better. But we need more.

This would make an ideal classroom project, since it’s an opportunity to be inventive. Find out more at @MHMediaCharter on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

2. Staffroom stress

It’s well documented that stress can cause long-term health problems and costs the economy billions in lost working hours, but what can we do about it? Mental Health First Aid England has produced a resource looking at the best ways to tackle stress and it’s free to download and share with your colleagues and leadership team. Just click here to find out more.

Read the full article and find out more ways to help raise awareness ‘Schools can help Mental Health Awareness Week’

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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