This Thursday (1 February) was Time to Talk day, a day dedicated to encouraging open conversations about mental health. Organized by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Talk Day is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about mental health. The day seeks to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues and foster an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing the challenges they face.
The old proverb “A problem shared is a problem halved” might not be 100% accurate, but it is true that sharing worries and talking things through can be helpful. At BGS we hope that by talking honestly, openly, and frequently about mental health and wellbeing our pupils will be able to recognise when they need support and will know that it is okay to ask for help at any time of the year.
As well as encouraging people to talk, it is also important that those they speak to are comfortable in hearing them and don’t try to minimise or dismiss difficult conversations due to awkwardness or uncertainty as to how to respond.
This is one of the reasons that BGS introduced Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training for staff in 2019. Since then, a total of 174 staff, both teaching and support, have received the training, which aims to equip them with the necessary tools to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental health issues among students. Staff who have undertaken the YMHFA training at BGS report having more confidence in their ability to recognise and respond positively and helpfully to a young person experiencing mental health difficulties.
To help other schools in Bristol similarly empower their staff, BGS is pleased to be offering Youth Mental Health First Aid training to staff from other schools in the Bristol Education Partnership, with fifteen staff from eight schools across the state and independent sector taking part in a two-day training course beginning, appropriately enough, on Time to Talk day.
Of course, it is not only young people who might need mental health support. For this reason, in a new initiative for 2024, BGS is also offering staff the opportunity to undertake adult Mental Health First Aid training. Like the YMHFA course, the adult training will equip those who complete it with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to support colleagues, friends and family members who may be experiencing mental health challenges and signpost them to the support and guidance they need to live fulfilling and healthy lives.
We hope that by giving more people the confidence to respond positively when people share their difficulties and worries with them, BGS can help ensure that those who do open up and share their mental health concerns find that it is the first step to things getting better and that it really is good to talk.