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Mental Health, Prince Harry and Life To The Full

Author: Helen Burgess

Picture:alghad.com

Mental Health, Prince Harry and Life To The Full

Working as a lay chaplain in a secondary school, I was delighted to be asked to attend a ‘Mental Health First Aid Course for Youth’ run by the Diocese of Northampton.

Although many staff are trained to deliver first aid and receive regular updates to ensure we are prepared for the needs of the students, this was the first time I had heard of a Mental Health First Aid Course.

 Recently it has become increasingly apparent that our students have a range of emotional needs.

 As school chaplain, the first signs may be identified in prayer based activities, such as creative prayer and prayer spaces, as well as discussion groups and short courses including Youth Alpha.

Practical And Informative

The Mental Health First Aid Course was run over two days by MHFA England CIC. It was practical and informative whilst encouraging group participation and sharing.

It was well resourced, providing revision and backup with a handbook for when we returned to the workplace. It assumed no prior knowledge, worked professionally and confidentially whilst allowing for practice based discussion.

A review of the literature, a scan though the media or simply a conversation with teenagers and/ or their parents/ carers confirms that our young people are presenting with an increasing range of mental health concerns.

These range from low self-esteem, friendship worries, the experience of a bereavement, a lack of belonging, to physical health needs relating to eating disorders, self- harm, and substance abuse.

The Mental Health First Aid Course addressed all of these issues, albeit superficially, whilst opening up the themes and dispelling some misconceptions.

 A Holistic Approach

In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives a beautiful promise to every individual: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10: 10)

Teachers of health promotion have for many decades identified a number of dimensions which contribute to health, including physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and sexual health (Scriven  A. 2010. Promoting Health A Practical Guide: Ewles and Simnett. Bailliere Tindal Elsevier: London) .

The challenge, then, for those of us working with the young, is this: how are we working in all of these areas to bring about a holistic approach which enables an individual to “live life  to the full”?

In a faith school, a designated prayer/ reflection space is a good start. However, young people may have some concerns about dropping in!

 Therefore, offering a range of opportunities and approaches opens up the possibility of crossing the threshold. Activities which coincide with liturgical seasons such as Advent and Lent can be helpful. Outside areas, prayer gardens, labyrinths and faith walks are also useful.

Speaking Out

In the prayer room itself, focusing  on a specific theme has worked very well, allowing students the opportunity to reflect, explore and express.

 In recent months, the media have captured the support of the royals to promote Mental Health awareness. YouTubers and Bloggers speaking out helps as well.

 

These are then conversations which can be explored further in a faith setting.  

When Jesus was asked how to live a good life, He gave a holistic response, embracing many dimensions: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself." (Luke 10:27).

 How can we help our young people explore, question and grow spiritually if we do not work holistically and support their mental health? 

 

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