Senior Head's Blog: World Mental Health Day

Tuesday (10 October) this week was World Mental Health Day, which was marked under the headline of 'Mental Health is a universal human right'. This date has been part of the calendar since 1992 and is intended to focus attention on the impact of mental health on people across the world, while also giving mental health professionals a platform to discuss important topics.  

The level of awareness about mental health issues is so much greater than ever before. I can still remember the first time that there was counselling provision in a school that I was working in (1999 I think), and the response that this drew from many of the staff and pupils. Now there is an openness that is incredibly helpful and supportive, but there is no doubt that there is considerable need for more people to be able to access support at an earlier stage in order to improve our mental health more widely.  

One of the most powerful things that I saw on social media on Tuesday was this message from Norwich - Norwich City - World Mental Health Day. The importance that this notes for having honest conversations that go beyond the stage of 'how are you' is significant, and something that most of us could still improve further on. I know that I am from a generation where talking about issues used to be a sign of weakness, and to change that mindset took a conscious effort, for myself and towards others.  

At Felsted, the provision of the Wellbeing Centre is very important to us, and the work that Jane Miller and her team does is definitely making a significant difference. But, as the Norwich City clip demonstrates, all of us can try to be there for family, friends and colleagues, and all the evidence suggests that friends are particularly important, but also that early intervention is likely to be the most effective way to support. Due to the importance of this area, we are currently training some of our team to be able to deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid Taining so that we can train up (or re-train) as many of our staff in this important area as possible. If we make good progress on this, I would like us to be able to offer courses for parents as well in the not too distant future, if there is interest.  

As the American author, Leo Buscaglia said - “Too often we underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

It is impossible to finish today without recognising the suffering of so many innocent families in Israel and the Gaza Strip at this time. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected by the events of the last week, and our hopes look towards a swift and peaceful resolution with as few victims as possible.

Chris Townsend,
Head, Felsted School