Spotlight on mental health for Kingston secondary school pupils

On Wednesday 9 March, a very successful mental health conference was held at Tolworth Girls’ School for year nine and ten pupils from across Kingston borough.

Kingston Public Health working in partnership with Achieving for Children, (the social enterprise company created by Kingston and Richmond Councils to provide their children's services), staged an interactive and engaging conference aimed at young people from six schools including:

Chessington Community College, Coombe Boys’ School, The Holy Cross School, The Hollyfield School and Southborough High School plus the hosts Tolworth Girls' School. First topic on the agenda was stress, led by two boys from Coombe Boys’ School. They used creative, visual aids on how to tackle the subject and the variety of ways it impacts people's lives. Coping mechanisms were also identified, such as talking to someone, listening to music and playing sport.

Two psychologists from the Emotional Health Service also led a discussion defining what mental health actually is, its warning signs, as well as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. The stigma of mental health was also raised with a peer learning exercise carried out where pupils from different schools learned how to champion mental health within their schools. 

The feedback was very positive with one student commenting that it was ‘useful to understand mental health issues to a greater extent’. Another student praised the presenters as ‘really good at motivating us to educate others at school about mental health'. One of the Young People’s Health Link Workers from Public Health at the Royal Borough of Kingston said that 'it has been good to see the students motivated and working together. They are really excited about learning new things and taking ideas back to their school.’ The pupils from each school developed a mental health action plan which explains their actions and commitment for what they’ll do when back at their schools. They will now act as ambassadors for mental health and teach other pupils about what they learned at the conference. The young people had some really creative ideas, such as presenting at their school assembly and running events on Mental Health Day.

Councillor Eric Humphrey,Cabinet Member with responsibility for AfC Commissioning at Kingston Council, praised the conference as:

“an excellent way to prevent mental health problems in children by increasing their awareness of services, encouraging them to seek help early, as well as supporting them to promote this message in their schools. It has been shown that by identifying mental illness in its initial stages can lead to successful interventions and outcomes for those suffering with this highly debilitating condition.”

Mrs Siobhán Lowe, Headteacher at Tolworth Girls School described the event as:

“An excellent opportunity for students from across the borough to meet and discuss such a topical issue. I am sure the event will address issues and potential prejudices towards Mental Health so that the most appropriate support and the necessary help is given to our young people”