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Posted on 9th February 2018
Students in Stansted are the first in the UK to earn an award for their work around positive mental health.
Forest Hall School is working to break down the barriers around mental health, to encourage young people to talk openly about any issues they are experiencing.
The work will earn the school the Amber Flag, a campaign set up in Ireland.
The initiative aims to encourage schools and other organisations to promote and bring about change in the promotion of positive mental health.
The aim is to make the issue a daily topic of conversation leading to a cultural shift to rid the stigma attached to discussing mental health.
Forest Hall is the first school in the UK to take on the challenge.
Kelly O’Neill, food teacher, studied the issue when at college and is keen to put positive mental health on the map in Stansted.
She said: “I want to get young people talking about mental health and seeing it is not something to be ashamed of. The more it is openly talked about, the more likely people are to seek help when they are suffering.
“Where I’m from in Ireland, mental health is not talked about and suicide rates are high. It is talked about a little more here; but, people will say they suffer with anxiety and that’s as far as it goes. People are reluctant to admit they are suffering with depression, for example. It’s about taking that discussion a step further.”
Students are being challenged to write down ideas of things to do when they are stressed at school to make them happy. The notes will then be attached to a special tree in school which will remain a permanent fixture to share advice among peers.
The school’s completed application, including details of their activities, will be submitted in April, with the Amber Flag presented in May.
Miss O’Neill said: “The flag is in recognition of our efforts to talk about positive mental health.
“I would love to see more schools taking on this challenge. When I introduced it at Forest Hall, students’ initial reaction was ‘why would you talk about that’ and that is exactly the stigma we are breaking down here now.”