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You may remember Jonny Benjamin’s amazing Finding Mike campaign in 2014 to find the person who persuaded him against jumping off a bridge in London. After an advertising campaign he found ‘Mike’. As well as making a great human story it’s also provided an awareness tool to show the importance of just talking to someone at a particular low period in their life and how that might be a life-saver. The experience has prompted Jonny Benjamin to become involved in mental health campaigning work, and he has recently launched the ThinkWell campaign in schools.
Spreading the word
The idea of the campaign is that if young people can be encouraged to think and talk about mental health problems at a young age, they’ll be able to do so later in life, and hopefully mean they get the support needed to promote recovery. In launching the campaign Jonny Benjamin told of the startling statistic that 75% of all adult mental health problems begin before the age of 18.
Why should it work?
So why is it important to get a mental health message across in schools?
- One of the important barriers to getting help is stigma. People don’t want to talk about mental health – if you do you might lose your job, or it’ll affect your school record. If we can get schoolchildren talking about it hopefully it becomes the norm, for the rest of their lives, and influences all of our thinking about mental health.
- We talk to children about physical health and sexual health, so why not mental health. The idea of this kind of education is to prevent ill-health, so let’s try and prevent mental ill-health.
- If we can identify mental health problems at a young age we can hopefully intervene early, there’s a lot of evidence that early intervention can help provide treatment that prevents mental ill-health worsening, and young people can start learning coping strategies.
- Education can have wider influences, teachers can’t start to spot warning signs, and parents are better informed. Many teenagers experience problems in terms of behaviour, self-care, hostility, becoming withdrawn. Some of these are features of growing up, or they could be early signs of mental ill-health. We don’t want to make an illness of every behavioural problem, but equally we don’t want to ignore warning signs.
One of last week’s Time to Talk Day themes (on 4th February) was getting awareness material into schools. You can look at their material on the Time to Change website. If you want to find out more about the ThinkWell campaign you can check out the Campaign against Living Miserably (CALM) website.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor