Turton School and Canon Slade help to stamp out stigma of mental health
Buy this photo » LISTENING EARS From left, students Catherine Griffiths, Millie Jackson adn Sophie Owen all from Turton, John Porteous head at Turton, Canon Philip Williamson head at Canon Slade, Abigail Maxwell-Hodkinson, Sophie Elliott and Anna Mather all from Canon Sla
YOUNG people in Bolton are helping to stamp out the stigma associated with mental health issues — and ensuring children and teenagers who are affected do not suffer in silence.
Turton School and Canon Slade School have become the first in the North West to introduce a peer mentoring scheme so young people can support each other and promote mental health and wellbeing in their schools.
Statistics show that, on average — in every school in the country — three children in every classroom suffer from a diagnosable mental health problem.
Yet according to charity, Mindfull, poor mental health among young people remains one of the last great medical taboos in the UK today.
Now, year 11 pupils at both schools want to remove the misunderstanding, ignorance and shame associated with mental health problems — while ensuring young people who are suffering from mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and other concerns, are listened to and helped.
The programme is being pioneered by Mindfull. a new government backed programme providing an online service for 11-17-years-olds.
It brings together professional counselling and volunteers to provide a safe space for young people in distress or just want to talk And a group of young people at the two schools have just completed training to become peer mentors to provide advice and be empathetic.
They will stage drop-in sessions within school, with Canon Slade setting up a Student Centre — Turton School already has one — provide support on a one-to-one basis and mentor on-line.
Erin Docherty, well-being worker for Bolton Council North Cluster, said: “Young people have so many pressures on them today and there is a rising trend of self-harm.
“We want young people to be able to talk about issues they may have before it spirals and they carry it through to adulthood.
“Peer mentors are not therapists or counsellors they are there to signpost, direct and support others and give them tools to help.”
She added: “We have had a wide selection of mentors from all backgrounds, some who are pre-med or want to go into pharmacy.”
Peer mentors will be supported by Mindfull, Miss Docherty and the wellbeing working group made up of the many members of staff who have volunteered to be part of the project to ensure that children’s mental health is just as much looked after as their physical health.
A Wellbeing evening for parents focusing on the pressures facing young people will also be held.
Laura Smart, head of Mindfull, said: “We also want the peer mentors to go promote mental health wellbeing in schools, hold assemblies, hold fundraising events .
“We would like mental health wellbeing to be part of the national curriculum.”
Young people say they are excited about doing something proactive to help others and fight the taboo surrounding the subject.
Sadie-Leigh Jones, aged 16, from Turton School, said:”There are a lot of expectations on young people today to get the grades and do well, which can lead to stress, which can then snowball.
“I am excited about helping young people, and telling them that they are not the only person in that same position and it is okay to talk about it.”
Maddie Cresswell, aged 15, who also attends Turton School, added: “I have read that the anxiety levels among young people are as high as those who were kept in the old asylums.
“It is exciting that we are the first schools in the North West to be making a difference and hope other schools will follow and people realise mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed off and that they can be resolved.”
Headteacher at Turton School, John Porteous said: “The Mindfull peer mentoring programme is a perfect next step in the way we want to develop Turton as a caring and very successful school community.
“Firstly, students’ emotional well-being is at the heart of everything we do at Turton. We want our young people to feel capable, resilient and able to deal with all the challenges of life, both in and beyond school. This is a key platform on which to build their academic success and develop as people too.
“Secondly, we want to promote compassion, kindness and understanding of other people’s needs.
“Many people don’t understand mental illness, have unnecessary fears and make unfounded judgements about people who are struggling.
“This programme will be a great way to change attitudes, develop understanding and support those who need our help.”
He added: “We are delighted to be teaming up with Erin, our inspirational wellbeing worker, the Mindfull Charity and with Canon Slade too on this valuable project.”
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