By Lisa Kearney, Mentor and Chloe, Mentee.
Mental Health Awareness Week is here and I (Lisa) decided to take this opportunity to explore the topic with a mentee, Chloe, who had expressed a keen interest. She has experienced her own challenges regarding mental health and is not afraid to speak out on the topic, as well as on other areas close to her heart: frequently advocating for LGBT education within schools, for example. Working with LUL has given Chloe unique time and space to explore these topics - which she is clearly very passionate about - together with the opportunity to share her views, reaching others who may be facing similar challenges.
In my time working in schools across Scotland, I have witnessed the huge struggles they face, in supporting the wellbeing of students, and the equally huge efforts they make to address these, with often limited resources. There remain challenges in tackling mental health in schools, with students often afraid to speak up: I believe it is important to provide pupils with a platform to communicate about their experiences, to encourage these conversations, and to continue to raise awareness. LUL is one such platform, and I’m proud to share Chloe’s words with you:
“As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I’ve decided to share my personal story and my opinions on this topic.
As someone who has to deal with a variety of mental health issues, I can say it can become very stressful and annoying dealing with them, especially if you are young.
Annoying may be a strange word to use, but to be honest it fits perfectly: if you have to live your daily life with, let’s say, depression or stress, that will impact you heavily. For example, if you are stressed at school you won’t focus properly, if you’re depressed you could possibly not get out of bed. There are people like myself that, even though they struggle, like to keep it hidden, that are scared to speak or come forward. Later on, this can lead to low attendance because they can’t keep hiding how they’re feeling; can’t keep putting a fake face on until it becomes much worse, becomes a serious situation that could lead to self-harm or suicide.
I think a move that would help all people with mental health, would be to support the message ‘no bullying in schools’: because the schools say they will handle it, but we don’t actually know if that stops it.
Also, there should be more welcoming places to talk freely if possible, and if not, then there should be some way to support people to feel like they can speak out about their issues. There are some great places that do work to help people overcome mental health issues: I would recommend HOTS (Health Opportunities Team). They helped me a lot from the ages of 11 to 14 and I am more stable than I was back then: still struggling but getting better, remembering the worst thing is to suffer in silence.
As Chloe rightly points out, the stigma around mental health can often add fuel to the fire, as people hide what they are experiencing. I think it’s been important for her to touch on and share some of her challenges: to take part in a nationwide campaign, have her voice heard and experiences validated. By speaking out, she is uniting with others experiencing their own mental health issues, and contributing to a national shift towards open communication, and solutions. Well done, Chloe.
If you want to talk to someone about your mental health, you can find help from the Samaritans, as well as on the Mental Health Awareness Week website. If you have a question for Lisa, or want to know more about how Light Up Learning works, you can Tweet at us, or join our mailing list for news and updates.