Mental Health Awareness Week – The BRIT School: Claire Mullord, Director of Student Experience
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 14-20th May, we are running a series of blogs focusing on the role of music in mental health from some of the initiatives we work closely with including the BRIT School, Nordoff Robbins, Music Support, Key4Life, Help Musicians & more.
Today we are featuring a blog from the BRIT School’s Director of Student Experience, Claire Mullord.
A huge focus in the media, coupled with our own day to day experience of pastoral care and regular conversations with healthcare professionals suggest that we are facing a mental health crisis in the UK and that our focus as a school needs to be on prevention, such as promoting ‘self-care’, and early intervention rather than ‘treatment’.
Evidence from Young Minds and the National Children’s Bureau, further supported by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) points to a co-ordinated whole school approach being ‘the only effective long term way to improve mental health, where all parts of the organisation and its community are encouraged to work together in their commitment to wellbeing.’
We already promote emotional well-being as a school and tackle issues around mental health offering wide-ranging well-being support and education: pastoral leaders, Directors and tutors are in place to support the day to day issues young people face. Being a creative arts school, we can offer a valuable outlet for young people, who can use their talents to channel a positive mind set. There is a shared focus that music, art, theatre, community outreach work can enrich people’s lives and the school has always had a culture of sharing talents with both inside the school and with our neighbouring communities.
It is imperative we adopt strategies to improve the well-being of young people, particularly against the backdrop of examination pressure, assessments and in our particular school, the ability to perform or put creative work out in the public sphere. So here we have trained staff to identify the early warning signs of mental health illness in young people (especially deriving from stress, bullying, family breakdown and abuse) and focus on strategies such as nutrition and sleep, sex and relationship education, emotional intelligence, stress coping strategies, resilience and other ‘soft life-skills’. We provide a counselling service, a personal development programme: nutrition, sleep, free yoga and mindfulness sessions- which are proving really helpful to focus stressed minds. We also ensure there are safe zones around the school for students.
Another key to helping the school support mental health is working alongside charities and ambassadors such as Music Support, who with their knowledge and experience can give students preventative and active support. We recently hosted Polly Teale’s inner-critic resilience workshop with Year 13 leavers and invited Caryn Franklin, positive body image ambassador, in to share her thoughts and experiences on well-being (amongst other topics) with Year 12.
The School provides a creative outlet for over 1200 young people, which means that day- to day, everyone needs to understand how mental health can affect the school community.
The BRIT School embraces the values of Responsibility, Originality and Ambition and these values need to be supported with a robust framework and focus on well-being. We have an active student voice who are telling us that their peers are challenged by mental health so we have trialed meditation, yoga and mindfulness sessions, as well as regularly reviewing the food offer in the canteen to promote nutrition for well-being; for example we have a morning mindfulness session, with healthy breakfast, to prepare for and run through the impending exam period.
A community that believes in the power of art and music is often a positive one and the ability to be able to express yourself in a safe environment is paramount to taking risks but keeping mental health in check.