It’s OK To Say: Children’s Mental Health Week returns to St Albans for a second year of action

Stacey Turner and library manager Sally King highlight the Reading Well for Children list at St Alba

Stacey Turner and library manager Sally King highlight the Reading Well for Children list at St Albans Library. - Credit: Archant

Introduced to St Albans last year by mental health awareness campaign It’s OK To Say, Children’s Mental Health Week has returned for a second year.

Children's Mental Health Week at How Wood School.

Children's Mental Health Week at How Wood School. - Credit: Archant

Although the week itself is only from February 3-9, events organised by It's OK To Say are continuing into next week due to demand.

Children's Mental Health Week is an extension of the charity, Place2Be, and this year's theme is 'Find your Brave'.

The idea is that sharing a worry or asking for help can be one of the most courageous things you can do. However, if learned from an early age then this approach to life means not only do we surround ourselves with the support needed, but this openness allows us to connect with others in a way that doesn't cause us to shut people out.

Stacey explained: "Learning skills early in life can provide children with tools to cope with future challenges.

"While we're consistent with our messages all year, this special week shines the light on children's mental health, championing the importance of providing psychological, social and emotional support for children and young adults to support their mental health.

"It's OK To Say uses a collective approach by our experts and partners to develop work in order to deliver our shared ambitions of preventative steps, promoting communication and self-care.

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"By getting involved with as many organisations as possible, the message that It's OK To Say spreads further. By being consistent with our communication, we hope we're layering our support, brick by brick slowly, but surely encouraging anyone who needs it.

"We want to spark conversations and help people feel more confident in looking after their mental health."

The week started with a visit to How Wood Primary School for Monday morning's assembly, where the whole school sang M People's 'Search for a Hero'.

Headteacher Cynthia Rowe said: "It was lovely to welcome Stacey Turner to How Wood School for our fundraising assembly supporting the charity, School in a Bag. The whole school performed a song they have been rehearsing for 'Feeling Good Week' and Siena Sahota, Ruben Sahota and Oscar Leigh played their guitars for our special visitor. Stacey talked to the children about her charity, It's OK to Say, reinforcing the school's message that talking helps and we are always here to listen.

"It was so moving; the students broke off into choir groups and all took part in singing this inspirational song."

On Tuesday, Stacey visited St Albans library to see their new Reading Well for Children collection. This boasts beautifully curated books, chosen by children, carers, health experts and librarians to help young people deal with worries, feel better and boost their mood. The books on the Reading Well list have been specifically chosen to help young people understand their feelings and cope with tough times.

Library manager Sally King said: "St Albans Library is delighted to launch its full collection of the books, which is now available for borrowing by parents and children. Children's reservations are free of charge, any book from the collection can be borrowed from any library in Hertfordshire, the books can even be borrowed as a group. All children need to access the new books is a library membership."

St Albans teen band Princes To Kings have recorded a cover of 'Breathin' by Ariana Grande in support of Children's Mental Health Week following their recent TV debut on the Michael McIntyre Show, which again highlights the importance of talking and surrounding ourselves with support.

Today (Thursday) is Time to Talk Day, hosted by the Department of Health and Social Care. This initiative encourages everyone to be more open about mental health - to talk, to listen, to change lives.

Stacey said: "Talking about mental health doesn't have to feel awkward. Time to Talk are using the popular game, 'would you rather?' to help break the ice and inspire the conversation to flow.

"It's OK To Say recognises that a big problem is that people don't talk, so we work to reject the stigma attached and help normalise talking about mental health. The health of the mind is so important and one we should take very seriously.

"Talking is a preventative and supportive step. It's brave and the best thing you will ever do and encourage your children to do, so lead by example. It is one of the most important steps in reducing mental health problems.

"Please don't struggle on your own! Ask for help!

"You might like to try leading a conversation by showing your children this article and starting with something along the lines of, 'I feel really good about how there is so much importance placed on encouraging children to be open, talk and ask for help, as when I was little…'

"You might also talk about an experience you had when you did open up and it made the world of difference, even if you were worried."

Come and say hello to Stacey at Westminster Lodge this Friday between 3.30-5.30pm in the soft play area, with face painting, glitter, activities, some cupcakes (get them before they go!) and furry hugs with the It's OK To Say mascot bear.