Hey everyone, how are you doing? I hope you’re well and in good mental health. I want to apologise for the lack of blogs lately. It’s because I’ve been moving house, but want to discus with you about this project I’m involved in called ‘Crucial crew’ for school students aged 11- 16 at my first school. I then did 13-15 at the second school, where we have been talking about mental health and self harm, in 15 minute sessions, as it is a very hard hitting topic for children and young people.
This was my first experience ever speaking to children about this, and I was worried they would eat me alive. I didn’t get a good night sleep the night before as I was very nervous, but my first class of the morning went well. I started off asking them could they name some emotions that are linked with mental health. The room went quite for a minute or so, then one student put his hand up and said ‘sadness’ then some more hands started popping up with answers of fear, angry, lonely and so on. I said to them there is one that begins with H and someone shouted out ‘happiness’. I high-fived this student and that made them all laugh. I then explained that you can be in a happy place but still have bad mental health, but you can be in a sad place and still have good mental health and through out the room you could see they were nodding there heads.
So the the second thing, I explained a senario of me when I was at school of something that actually happened to me years ago. I was scared to put my hand up in case I got the answer wrong, and the class would laugh at me, or I would put my hand up and pull it straight back down again then think the teacher would pick on me for it. Or I’d answer the question, but give an answer about another subject. I then explained that this left me with negative thoughts in my head. I would go home and then lock my self in my room then the self harm thoughts would come because I didn’t want to ask for help as I was scared to. It wasn’t until I went to school and told someone I was struggling, I had a teacher say to me, don’t ever feel ashamed to ask for help if your struggling, because we all struggle at something in our lives. So I said to them this me giving you a gentle kick up the backside to go ask for help if you need it. They all burst out laughing, but some also said thank you. And I reminded them asking for help isn’t sign weakness.
For the end of the talk we talked about distraction techniques and if we couldn’t talk about our problems, how else we could communicate to people that we need help and they came up with suggestions like writing, drawing and singing. I thought they were good answers.
Then we had a Q&A, and my favourite question was ‘does self harm have to be physical?’. My answer was not always. That there are many ways to self harm, and that includes not looking after yourself. Over eating, starving yourself etc.
I wish mental health was talked about more like this when I was back at school. I think it could of helped me so much in so many ways. The children really surprised me on both occasions on how they deal with such mature topics of conversation, and I hope projects like this help them, and make them feel like they’re not alone. At the end of some sessions, I was getting thumbs up, fist pumps and thank yous from the students. This is what makes me think that projects like Crucial crew can really make a difference with peoples mental health.