NHS figures from last June show that nearly a quarter of a million children and young people were in contact with mental health services for problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders – supporting observations of a growing crisis in young people’s mental health.
Theresa May’s recent ‘shared society’ speech revealed that words are not enough to tackle this challenge and in response announced a large government intervention promising greater links between NHS services and schools, with budgets reallocated to address the issue.
During the course of last year Bradford Grammar School has been instrumental in providing public talks for pupils, parents and staff from, amongst others, teenage mental health expert Dick Moore and Cyber Problem Solvers PCSOs Steve Atkinson and Izac Spencer from West Yorkshire Police.
The latest in this series of influential speakers is Jeremy Thomas, an award winning author, producer and speaker who visited Bradford Grammar School (BGS) to give a talk on ‘How to stay sane in an insane world’, based around his own experience of dealing with addiction and manic depression.
As a result of overcoming his own battle with bipolar disorder he co-produced with Dr. Tony Hughes the Emmy Award winning documentary ‘Stephen Fry, The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’.
Jeremy reflects on the national state of play: “I think it’s getting better but there needs to be far more done in mental health in the NHS for young people. I think schools need to put this in the curriculum from Year 6. At BGS it’s great to know that they incorporate resilience, self-esteem and essential key coping strategies from a young age, subtly laying the foundations for later life.”
His talks at BGS offered a series of practical, useful and honest tips on how to stay mentally healthy and get the best out of life. He spoke about prevention being far better than the cure and encouraged using humour to help talking about such a serious subject.
“I think the main thing pupils and parents took away from the sessions was that mental illness can affect us all. The fact that you can do something about it is paramount and above all prevention is better than cure. It’s really important to reduce stigma and embarrassment and encourage young people to share how they are feeling- transparency is key.”
“BGS have a sleeves rolled up, hands on approach that will ensure pupils know what to do and feel able to speak up in the event of mental health problems. They value and respect pupils’ privacy, but make it very clear what someone has to do to get help.”
Simon Hinchliffe, Headmaster explained why wellbeing and mental health is so important for the School and young people: “At BGS we have always placed a premium on our pastoral care, fostering a broad range of interests outside the classroom to nurture resilient and characterful young people that are able to navigate complex modern life and make the most of opportunities.”
“We are fortunate to have tutors and Heads of Year who know our pupils individually and care about them greatly, and who are supported by our dedicated school nurses and counsellors.”
The strategies and advice Jeremy offered about how to deal with mental health and get further advice were instrumental in raising awareness to both pupils, staff and parents alike.
Jane Chapman, Assistant Head (Pastoral) said: “We were delighted to welcome Jeremy to BGS and his visit has been a great success. He is a compelling speaker with considerable experience and wisdom drawn from his professional and personal life.”
“In his talks he has shared his own story with parents and pupils and given advice on practical measures to combat poor mental health and deal with depression, anxiety and stress. The feedback has been excellent.”
Watch out for our Spotlight on Happiness campaign coming on the ‘International Day of Happiness’, 20 March 2017. The online resource will be dedicated to children, young people and adults to learn about wellbeing in school and why it’s so important.
“I think it’s getting better but there needs to be far more done in mental health in the NHS for young people. I think schools need to put this in the curriculum from Year 6. At BGS it’s great to know that they incorporate resilience, self-esteem and essential key coping strategies from a young age, subtly laying the foundations for later life.”