Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week (May 9-15) at Victoria College we are returning to our whole school focus on mental health.
We continue to cultivate a culture in which our students can 'Speak Up' about their emotions, removing the stigma around boys and men talking about their mental health. Our Student Council highlighted mental health as a topic they wanted to concentrate attention on this academic year; our activities in school this week mark a return to this focus.
In order to cultivate a culture of speaking up about loneliness and mental health worries, we started the week with a student led assembly conceived, planned, and delivered by some of our Year 11 and Year 12 students. In a moving video they speak about wellbeing and explore the theme of loneliness, explaining what it is and the effect it can have on mental health. They go on to deliver their own advice for younger students on how they can support and listen to their friends with a clear message - ‘opening up is courageous; it is by no means weak.’ We are proud of their bravery in tackling these emotive topics, when stigma still exists around men speaking about their emotions. The assembly will be followed by activities in tutor time, which explore the topic of loneliness in more depth.
The Art Department has also created an art installation for our main building as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. The sculptural head totem was part of a project that looked at the portrait of the face and how to draw features. To inform this work and give it meaning and process, students also looked at Easter Island Heads, Caricatures and African Masks and combined this with studying an artist called Michael Brennand-Wood who makes sculptures using textiles. Students throughout the school will be responding to the totem and answering questions about how the heads might be feeling and thinking. These responses will be shared with students via school screens to encourage students to engage further with some of the important topics surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week.
At Victoria College, the importance of developing our people has been critical to supporting the mental health of our students - so far this year we have trained more staff as Mental Health First Aiders and have a commitment to continue expanding this programme. We have also trained a group of Year 12 students as Mental Health Peer Educators, through the Mental Health Foundation's programme. These Year 12 educators have now become the College’s Mental Health Ambassadors, delivering regular PSHE sessions to our Year 7 students.
Dr Gareth Hughes, Headteacher of Victoria College, said, ‘One of our key goals is to foster an inclusive, safe and supportive community at our school, where every student can thrive in a culture of kindness. I am proud that as a school we are embracing open discussion and proactive education on adolescent mental health. As a Silver Rights Respecting School, we are committed, through Article 6, to each child 'developing to their full potential', and this sits alongside Article 24, which states that, 'children and young people have the right to be both physically and mentally fulfilled.' As our Student Council themselves choose this focus on mental health, we also further the development of Article 12 in our community, where students' voices are heard, and they are involved in the decision making of the College.’