As frontline teachers one of the most important roles we can play in transforming our students’ mental well-being is contributing to breaking the stigma around mental health and reassuring our students and colleagues that it is ok to not be ok. This is a key step in our drive to change the narrative and see mental illness treated in the same way as any physical illness would be.
Discussing mental health is not always easy but one of the ways that is most effective is talking about role models and their experiences of mental wellbeing/health/illness so that children can identify and empathise with them.
Two leading sports performers have spoken up this summer and given us teachers a great prompt to discuss mental health with our young people.
Pimblett urges men to speak out about their mental health
Firstly it was fantastic to see Paddy Pimblett from UFC encouraging men to talk to someone if they are struggling with their mental health after his friend died by suicide on the eve of his UFC London clash with American Jordan Leavitt.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 3 times more males died from suicide in England than females in 2020.
“That speech was just something that came from my heart; I didn’t plan none of it, it just came out,” Pimblett says. “I wanted to dedicate the fight to Ricky, and then I started talking and it all just came out. I couldn’t help it. I think that was because I had it all bottled up inside me.
“More men going out and speaking and getting things off their chests, that means more to me than any victory in a cage ever will, lad,” Pimblett says. “Winning in the Octagon does mean a lot to me, but people telling me that they haven’t killed themselves – because of something I’ve said – and things along them lines, it means more than any win will ever mean to me, to be honest.
“We’ve had thousands of messages – not just me; my manager, my coach – off different people and organisations. I want to thank every single person for every one of them messages.”
Phoenix from the Ashes
Then came Ben Stokes’ documentary ‘Phoenix From The Ashes’ on Amazon Prime which takes us on Stokes’ incredible roller coaster journey of highs and lows over the last 4 years.
Stokes is one of the toughest most respected cricketers around and has had to overcome huge trauma in both his personal and professional life. Following a series of panic attacks after several traumatic events in his life, Ben took a break from elite sport in 2021 to prioritise his mental health.
If a warrior like Ben Stokes can suffer from mental illness then it is clear that anyone can suffer too at some point in their life depending on their situation and circumstances.
Ben Stokes. Image Credit - Twitter @Sivy_KW578
He is now leading England and put in match winning performances against South Africa this summer, a true phoenix from the ashes of mental illness.
If you haven't had a chance to watch the documentary yet then I strongly recommend it to you and your older students to help develop understanding.
Personalising the needs of your young people
The trick to having impact with young people when using this role model technique to open up conversations around mental health is to use someone that they know and are passionate about.
When using sporting celebrities try and tailor the sports star to the type of celebrity that group of children look up to. If they’re into gymnastics then Simone Biles is a great role model, Naomi Osaka for tennis, Ben Stokes for cricket or Tyson Fury for boxing. Raheem Sterling has spoken in the past about how mindfulness has helped him and rugby player Siya Kohlisi has talked about mental health so there is a wide range of supporting celebrities who can be used.
This table might help you:
Pulled out of her Olympic event to protect her mental health.
Had a break from tennis to protect her mental health.
Had a break from Cricket to protect his mental health following the death of his father.
Recovered from depression to become world champion.
Encouraged people to talk to someone if they are struggling with their mental health after the death of his friend.
It’s ok to not be ok following social media racist abuse.
Using meditation to break the cycle of negative thoughts.
If the children in front of you have no interest in sport then find a celebrity who they are interested in who has discussed mental health such as Sam Fender. Spiderman actor Tom Holland, Selena Gomez, Ed Sheeran, Camilla Cabello, and Demi Lovato have all spoken about the damage social media has had on their mental health.
There are a whole host of different celebrities who have broached the subject over the last few years and should be applauded for it. Now is your opportunity to break the stigma and reassure our students and colleagues that it is ok to not be ok.
Taking the next step
If you would like help in feeling more skilled to address these conversations and more then you are in the right place.
Here at Future Action we have guided over 100 highly innovative schools across the world to train their brilliant teachers in how they can improve their students’ mental wellbeing.
Our online teacher training course guides great teachers to help teach their students strategies to reduce their anxiety, build their confidence and create an Early Intervention Mental Wellbeing Programme that has whole school impact within 90 days.
All our resources are editable to save teachers hours of precious planning time and enables teachers to adapt resources to the needs of their students.
Our online teacher training course enables schools to access the training anywhere in the world and reduces school cover costs for CPD.
It is ideal for your Wellbeing leads, RSHE leads, Physical Education teachers and any member of staff who wants to equip themselves with a range of early intervention skills so that they can make a difference.
The RISE Up Scorecard
Our RISE Up scorecard has been created to help your school identify the areas you need to focus on to transform the wellbeing of your students.
You'll be scored in the following key categories :
 Activities - a range of physical activities are a fantastic way to transform your students' mental wellbeing by incorporating trauma informed practice.
 Mental Fitness - using positive psychology to transform your students' confidence and reduce their anxiety.
 Habits - embedding healthy habits and reducing unhealthy habits to enable students to self-care for their wellbeing now and long after they have left your school.
 Whole School Impact - identify areas where you can use the power of Physical activity to have whole school impact.
Test your school’s wellbeing provision in 3 minutes by answering 19 simple questions.
You will receive your own personalised report with top tips to enhance the quality of your provision to transform the wellbeing of your students and staff.
Taking this super quick quiz will arm you with the information you need to take your school’s early intervention wellbeing programme to the next level. It will give you a way to benchmark your progress in this vital area over the next year.
We would be delighted to go through the answers you have provided in your scorecard and explore different ways we can enhance your school’s wellbeing provision in partnership with you.
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