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News7th February 2018

#TimetoTalk about mental health and wellbeing

Staff and students from across the Ark network were proud to be part of Time to Talk Day, encouraging everyone to start talking about mental health.

Time to Talk Day was established by Time to Change, the campaign to change how we all think and act about mental health problems, led by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. The day was created in recognition of the fact that people talking and sharing their experiences changes the attitudes of those around them.

1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem and, sadly, 90% of those young people will experience stigma and discrimination. Stigma stops young people seeking help; it stops them living normal lives.

Schools across the Ark network held events to improve the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of young people and families around mental health.

These included Ark Priory Primary Academy’s wellbeing and happiness assembly followed by students being encouraged to fill in their reflection diaries with comments about how they felt, whilst Ark Bentworth used the staff meeting, circle time and reception time to discuss ‘how to keep well’. The school will also host a coffee morning with parents to spread the word further.

Students at Ark Helenswood created a video to highlight some of the issues around mental health awareness to share on social media. In addition, Ark Elvin Academy introduced post boxes in student services, the library and reception for students to fill in a slip to drop in the box. They will continue into next term with a coffee morning for parents to inform them of in-school sessions around mental health awareness and support.

Conversations were also sparked at Ark’s central office with a visiting Time to Change Champion giving a powerful talk to staff about her personal experience of mental health problems whilst still at school and the fears and stigma of asking for help from friends and teachers. She emphasised the need to educate teachers on how to communicate with students and the importance of encouraging young people to speak out to help normalise mental health issues. As part of the Ark employee programme line managers are to be provided with additional support including developing conversation starters with staff.

Joycelyn Thompson, Head of Safeguarding at Ark said: “It is encouraging to see so many Ark schools participate in Time to Talk Day and be willing to open up spaces to talk about mental health. We believe we can all change by removing the barriers to talking and make our workplaces and schools supportive, open environments that promote healthy dialogue and wellbeing for all.”

Ark Conway Primary Academy in Hammersmith was recognised last year for its commitment to workplace wellbeing by being awarded Gold in Mind’s inaugural Workplace Wellbeing Index, which showed they are achieving excellence within their workplace.

Its success with staff has meant that Ark Conway involved students by introducing brain breaks (a deep breathing mindfulness technique) in classes – even in their reception class! These are carried out three times a day, allowing pupils to clear their minds. They also teach pupils about the science of the brain, so they understand why they’re doing it. It helps make them more aware of their own wellbeing and ensure they can look after themselves later in life.

Learn more about the Time to Change campaign and access resources to use in your school or organisation.