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James’ story: Schools have a big part to play in providing a space to talk about mental health

In this extended story from our Thinking differently manifesto, Anna Freud Young Champion, James, tells us in his own words why he thinks it’s important to embed a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Module 3 (3)

I struggle with my mental health and I’ve known others who haven’t come out the other side.

The majority of issues young people with mental health difficulties face come up during school. It’s things like bullying, toxic masculinity and expectations in society.

School should be saying ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and taking a whole-school approach so no voices are left out. Everyone should have the opportunity to have somewhere safe to speak.

Boys to Men

I’m part of a wellbeing group in my school called Boys to Men. It started a few years back to help pupils whose skills were not being brought out through regular school activities.

It gives boys like me a focus and it keeps our feet on the ground while giving us a sense of responsibility. It also provides us somewhere safe to speak to other people where you don’t feel like you’re an idiot or embarrassed. We’ve created a safe place to talk and we input into things the school is doing, too.

Whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing

Schools have a big part to play in providing a space to talk about mental health. They need to start building a whole-school approach and helping young people have a say too otherwise our views will be left out.

We should be able to bring our opinions to the limelight because we are more than just children. We do know what we’re talking about. We deserve to have a voice and our opinions matter.

Thinking differently - a word from Anna Freud

Anna Freud is a mental health charity and we’ve been supporting children and young people for over 70 years.

Thinking differently is our first ever manifesto. We bring young voices, scientific insight and research together to say what needs to change in the approach to children and young people’s mental health.

Our five-point plan details how we believe we can close the gap in children and young people’s mental health through a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention.

Within schools we’re calling on political parties, policy makers and funders to adopt a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing by:

  • Creating a more inclusive school system by promoting educational models that value social, emotional and physical development as well as academic achievement.

  • Improving access to preventative mental health programmes in schools for children and young people with mild-to-moderate mental health needs.

  • Including content in initial teacher training on how to build good mental wellbeing across the school community and provide annual training opportunities for all school staff and leaders.

  • Investing in programmes delivered in partnership with schools that help parents* understand and support their children’s mental wellbeing.

Contact us if you want to know more about our five-point plan.

We’re currently recruiting for new Young Champions, like James, and Parent Champions. Read what’s involved and check out our Participation Strategy to learn more about our commitment to meaningful youth voice.