Honesty policy to beat mental health

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The latest workshop in a school’s battle against mental health issues was supported beyond expectation but the assistant head teacher and organiser of the campaign was ‘disappointed with the presentation’.

Thomas Cowley High School, Donington, launched a Teenage Mental Health Initiative after shock reports that the number of students facing problems has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

But Mary Meredith, leading the campaign, said she was disappointed the recent workshop by BEAT – the UK’s leading eating disorders charity – did not focus enough on boosting self-esteem in the home.

She said: “At the parents’ event the focus was on eating disorders. I had hoped for more focus on prevention.”

The campaign includes a series of information evenings with parents exploring the problems covered in the student workshops.

More than 50 parents attended the BEAT session, which Mary said was way beyond her expectations.

The students’ event for 11-14 year olds looked at media representations of beauty. They were shown a model before and after her make-up was applied and after she had been ‘photoshopped’.

Over 50 per cent of the students identified themselves as being in the group with the lowest body confidence.

“It really made the students realise that some beauty is simply unattainable,” said Mary: “It was a helpful reminder of inner beauty.”

Both boys and girls attended the workshop which Mary said she didn’t expect but worked well because the boys got just as involved and revealed they feel pressured when they hear girls describing peers as ‘hot’.

Now Mary has invited parents to a second workshop with body confidence expert Natasha Devon, who has featured on Channel 4’s ‘Gok’s Teens – the Naked Truth’.

Mary said: “The parents session was very different to the students’ workshop. I handed out feedback forms and they have all said they want further sessions.”

Pupils also had the chance to report their feelings in weekly ‘circle time’ meetings.

Mary said from these the school has identified self harm and mental health is an issue they need to focus on next.

She also revealed members of staff had spoken out in assemblies about their life-long battles with depression.

Mary said it has not changed how teachers are treated, but improved their relationships with pupils and encouraged them to be open with each other and in circle time.

She said the level of honestly was not apparent immediately and making the same effort at home is crucial to cutting mental health issues.