Did you know that 10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness? Or that 51% of young people surveyed by YouGov mentioned they would feel embarrassed to have a mental diagnosis at their age?
Before half term, Habs held a week of events designed to celebrate the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week. These events encouraged our boys to reflect upon their own mental health – as well as equip them with the tools to develop and improve it.
A few of these events included:
• A lunchtime talk, given by Archuna Ananthamohan (OH 2017), on ItMatters
• A HabsDash, HAPPY DASH, focused on well-being
• A Headmaster’s assembly, led by Eli in the Sixth Form, on finding purpose
• House Assemblies led by students across the Six Houses
• A lunchtime workshop with Year 6 and Year 7, led by Laughology, on having fun
• A talent event, Mencap’s Got Talent, held in the Bourne Hall
Our Director of Student Council, Eli, mentioned: "I wanted to make sure every event had a positive message. Whichever assembly it was, at the end there needed to be a positive message. We’re here to talk about mental health - but also understand it can be conquered and overcome."
We caught up with an Old Boy and a current Sixth Former to talk about their roles in during the week.
Archuna is talking to a crowd of Sixth Formers about the organisation he has co-founded, ItMatters. Leaving Habs two years ago, he has since worked in the charity sector and creative industry. Speaking to us after the event, he mentions: "As well as advising The Big Issue Magazine as their Young Collaborator, I wrote and produced a suicide awareness film for The OLLIE Foundation. The film's viral success sparked the start of the #ItMatters movement. Since then I have been running its respective base organisation (ItMatters UK), attending meetings at the Department of Education and working with influential young campaigners to drive change."
During his talk, Archuna tells the boys a number of stories from his own life, as well as those of his friends, who struggled to communicate some of the issues regarding mental health. When we ask him about the advice he would give to Sixth Formers, he mentions:
"Having a mental illness or suffering from very poor mental health is not a weakness. One doesn't lack resilience or competence for having mental health issues. If anything, it requires tremendous resilience to even endure such struggles. Needless to say, managing without any adequate support and trying to carry on as usual can be extremely damaging."
Archuna suggests that any student struggling with mental health consider getting in touch with professional support. Helplines such as Young Minds Crisis Messenger can listen and offer non-judgmental advice. We also have a dedicated pastoral team at Habs to help support any student with concerns, including Tutors, Housemasters, Heads of Section, the School Chaplain and School Counsellors.
Eli has just delivered his Headmaster’s assembly to resounding applause. As the boys head out, we overhear Mr Hardman – Russells housemaster – comment that it was the most inspiring assembly he had been to. What was it about Eli’s assembly that got the whole school on its feet? We talked to Eli early on Friday morning:
"I wanted to make sure every event had a positive message. Whichever assembly it was, at the end there needed to be a positive message. We’re here to talk about mental health - but also understand it can be conquered and overcome."
This sense of positivity, as well as a willingness to openly discuss the difficulties of mental health, came across clearly in Eli’s assembly. There was much discussion on how pursuing a goal is a successful way to overcome some of the difficulties of mental health.
"The real message of my assembly was the importance of finding your purpose. I used stories from my personal life to put across how important it is to find your own. I’d put emphasis on my current purpose, which is breaking down the stigma of mental health and helping others find their purpose."
Eli’s work on the student council, as our officer for mental health, has done much to prove this desire to help others. Regarding speaking out about mental health, he recommends the following:
"Understand that if you are going through tough times, there are people who are going through the same thing. And they’re more than happy to help. I even take purpose from helping people. Don’t think you’re being a burden on someone – most often it makes people feel happy being able to give advice. Look out for a helping hand. There are always hands out there."
Look Out for a Helping Hand
Clearly the nurturing of any talent takes for granted the underlying health and mental well-being of our boys. As a school, we care deeply about their well-being, and encourage them to communicate openly and freely in the manners shared by Archuna and Eli.
A comment by one parent on the Laughology workshop, led by Laura Druvy, perhaps sums the wider importance of the Mental Health Week:
"I wanted to let you know how useful he found the session … He is not the most confident child so a session on positive thinking was particularly relevant and useful for him … Teaching the boys soft skills and focusing on their mental health is so critical and we really appreciate your continued and considerable efforts in this area."
We would like to thank all of our guest speakers for a wonderful range of talks and events, as well as Eli and Mr Bass for organising the week. And remember, as Eli emphasis, to look out for a helping hand.