This weeks Theme is Mental Health Awareness. Our pupils and students have spent this week reflecting on what they can do to develop and maintain good mental health, the importance of sleep routines, how they maintain good mental health and how they access help at school.
Here at Langley we offer a wide range of wellbeing provisions such as mindfulness walks, resident wellbeing dogs, in-class meditation, volunteer listening service and much more. Find out more information here.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. It strongly affects our daily lives – how they feel to us, as well as our ability do the things we need and want to, including work, study, getting on with people and looking after ourselves and others.
Another way to think about mental health is like thinking about the weather. As the seasons change, the weather does too. There are bright and sunny days which make us feel happy and want to do things like going outdoors, but on other days the weather can change to darker, rainy days, where you don’t feel like leaving the house. Like the weather, your mental health can go through periods of positive and bright bursts of energy, and it can also dip and drag you down a darker road. You may feel tired and lack motivation or energy to do the simple things, such as getting out of bed or getting on with your day.
Whatever you are feeling, know that this is completely normal, and you can seek support or speak to family and friends about how you are feeling.
Many people are reluctant to talk about their feelings and their mental health – there is still a stigma around it. Ironically, not sharing our feelings with anyone, or even knowing what they are, can make our mental health worse. Talking can help us find hope again and feel closer to other people.
Our mental health may change because of situations we’re in, things we’re doing and things beyond our control, including other people, our physical health, our finances and even the weather and world events such as the pandemic.
All of us are affected by what happens to us, past and present. Things that happened even many years ago can affect our mental health today, for better or worse. Our genes also have an influence.
When our mental health is good, we feel good inside. We might feel calm or content, peaceful, hopeful and accepting of ourselves and valued by the people who matter to us.
Having good mental health makes life easier. It helps us to calm and comfort ourselves when we’re upset, to cope with the losses, changes, fears and uncertainties in life, to make and keep good relationships with other people and to learn.
Having good mental health does not mean feeling good all the time. We all have our downs and ups. Life is full of unavoidable risks, worries and losses, which affect everyone. Sometimes difficult feelings pass quickly and we bounce back. Sometimes we struggle for much longer. This can happen to any of us.
We can all do things to support and improve our mental health, and help prevent problems. In your tutor times later this week, you will explore what these might be for you. For me, it’s one of three things, getting out and running, playing football or immersing myself in musical theatre. Whatever it is for you, having something that helps you is important.
When our mental health is not so good, life feels more of a struggle. We might often feel sad or tearful, and hopeless and exhausted. We might feel under unbearable stress, or often worried about bad things happening to us or people we care about. All of these are very common experiences.
Feeling down, anxious or stressed can mean we don’t have much energy for activities such as work or study, ‘life admin’ and looking after ourselves and others. It can be hard to keep going.
Feeling like this for a while could be a sign that something else in our lives is wrong, or that we need help. It is also a natural reaction, if we’ve had a major loss or shock, such as bereavement, a relationship split or a serious health problem.
Some things are easier to change and some problems may be beyond our control. Sometimes we need help, with our mental health or with the situations causing us to struggle – for instance, debts or relationship problems. In these situations, the sooner we get support, the better.
If you feel like you are struggling then you are not alone – in a recent survey by YoungMinds, 1 in 6 children identified as having a probable mental health issue – it’s not out of the norm. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Dwayne Johnson, JK Rowling and Adele have all suffered from poor mental health, but they have also been very vocal about how they overcame it. It can be scary, but there is so much help and support out there, particularly at school. You can talk to your tutor, your head of year, the pastoral team. We have the Time to Talk Service where you have trained listeners who are ready and wiling to listen to and support you. We have the school counsellor for when things get more serious.
You also have the support of friends and those at home. Whoever you choose to talk to, it’s important that you choose someone. I few years ago, I spoke on this very same issue, as I passionately believe that by talking deeper problems can be avoided. I want to finish by reading an extract from AA Milne’s work about a certain honey loving popular bear. In this extract Piglet explain to Pooh how he will always be there when Pooh needs him.
“Piglet?” said Pooh. “Yes Pooh?” said Piglet. “Do you ever have days when everything feels… Not Very Okay At All? And sometimes you don’t even know why you feel Not Very Okay At All, you just know that you do.” Piglet nodded his head sagely. “Oh yes,” said Piglet. “I definitely have those days.” “Really?” said Pooh in surprise. “I would never have thought that. You always seem so happy and like you have got everything in life all sorted out.” “Ah,” said Piglet. “Well here’s the thing. There are two things that you need to know, Pooh.
The first thing is that even those pigs, and bears, and people, who seem to have got everything in life all sorted out… they probably haven’t. Actually, everyone has days when they feel Not Very Okay At All. Some people are just better at hiding it than others. “And the second thing you need to know… is that it’s okay to feel Not Very Okay At All. It can be quite normal, in fact. And all you need to do, on those days when you feel Not Very Okay At All, is come and find me, and tell me. Don’t ever feel like you have to hide the fact you’re feeling Not Very Okay At All. Always come and tell me. Because I will always be there.
Everyone needs a Piglet. I’m going to ask you to observe a period of silent reflection and then while you’re leaving today I’m going to play a song and to quote the lyrics, I want you to remember that ‘everybody hurts sometimes, but take comfort in your friends’.