Studying Mental Health and using it to help others…

As someone currently going through the education system, I know that there is nothing more boring than a teacher standing in front of a PSHE class of 30 droning on about current issues from a presentation that looks and sounds as though it was created 10 years ago. At the time you often zone out and wonder what relevance, if any at all, the content will ever have to you, but now I understand it, now I see what relevance those lessons on life stresses and mental health has to every single person… 3 people in every class will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. It may not sound a lot, but if you take 3 people in every class and multiply it by the number of classes in one school and then take that figure and multiply it by the 10s of thousands of schools across the UK then it is easy to see how many people suffer from mental health illnesses on a daily basis.

Now, being an aspiring medic and having read around the topic, I realise how interesting the topic of mental health is. So when I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of this programme by our careers advisor, Mrs Cooban, I jumped at the opportunity! I didn’t really know fully what it involved but I knew I wanted to do it. I soon found out that as part of the project I would attend two days of training, Mental Health First Aid for youth, where I would receive a qualification but this was only the start of this journey. From this in our pairs from school, we would deliver PSHE lessons to classes from years 7, 8 and 9 in a bid to address 3 main aims:

1.       To improve understanding and awareness of mental health illnesses

2.       To build resilience and help people to know what support they can access

3.       To reduce stigmas associated with mental health illnesses

Reducing stigma? I thought in current society there was very little stigma and yet now I realise that this was in fact due to how accustomed I had become to hearing these derogative words used in day to day life; spaz, mong, window licker, all words that are stigmas used to describe mental health suffers and yet all words I would probably hear when walking across the yard one lunchtime. So George (my fellow peer mentor) and I set about delivering these PSHE lessons, we set the presentations mainly around the MHFA course that we had studied, raising awareness of what each of these mental illnesses were but we ensured we included lots of activities because as I said earlier, there is nothing more boring than someone standing reading off a presentation. We played clips including ‘the stand-up kid’ and an exercise to give the class an idea of what it is like to be a sufferer of psychosis.

It wasn’t hard although there were of course setbacks such as rowdy classes and in general, people playing the class clown. I feel we handled these issues relatively well though! For anyone that is considering being part of their peer mentor programme in school then my one message would be to DO IT! There is nothing more rewarding than leaving a lunchtime session where you have helped that new year 7 child who is struggling to settle, to make friends and become organised and knowing that now he is going to stop getting into trouble because (s)he hasn’t done his/her homework because you have given them systems that you know have worked for you as working your way through the school. Or even just being there for someone to talk to and ask for some help with their homework or something they are struggling with. Listening as a peer mentor is a key process!

I have enjoyed the programme run through Child and Adolescents Mental Health Service by Alison, Laura and Rachel and I am keen to be involved as much as possible in the future! This project has highlighted even more to me why it is important to recognise mental health illnesses and not to discriminate against those that may be suffering.


(Peer Educator @ St Anselm’s College)

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