Hertfordshire #JustTalk campaign encourages St Albans pupils to talk about mental health

The #JustTalk campaign film competition judging panel. Picture: Herts county council

The #JustTalk campaign film competition judging panel. Picture: Herts county council - Credit: Archant

St Albans schools are encouraging young people to have conversations about mental health as part of Hertfordshire’s Just Talk campaign week.

Hertfordshire County Council's director of public health Jim McManus promoting the #JustTalk campaig

Hertfordshire County Council's director of public health Jim McManus promoting the #JustTalk campaign. Picture: Herts county council - Credit: Archant

The #JustTalk campaign runs from Monday, November 18 to Sunday, November 24, with more than 70 primary and secondary schools across Herts taking part.

As part of the campaign, children and young people are taught how to look after their mental health, and encouraged to open and up and talk about things that are worrying them before they escalate into a crisis.

Schools are hosting assemblies and lessons themed around mental health, and showing short films created by pupils to support the campaign.

Sandringham School headteacher Alan Gray said: "At Sandringham School, we are building on work completed in previous years to support the wellbeing of our students.

St Albans schools are taking part in Hertfordshire County Council's #JustTalk campaign. Picture: Her

St Albans schools are taking part in Hertfordshire County Council's #JustTalk campaign. Picture: Herts county council - Credit: Archant

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"Campaigns like #JustTalk provide an excellent framework for us to encourage openness and honesty among our school community.

"This year, we are encouraging the whole school to share how they maintain a positive mental health and also to engage in the brilliant Hertfordshire campaign activity of devising a video to promote support for students to cope with exam pressures.

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"We then plan to use this work to change our school environment to enable students better access to self-care strategies."

Participating schools were given a toolkit to help run activities and share the key campaign messages: 'It's OK not to be OK' and 'Talking shows strength'.

Verulam School is also taking part in the campaign. Pastoral director Daniel Tansley said: "This campaign has highlighted to our students the importance of talking through your problems, and allowed us as a school to put it to the forefront of our pastoral care."

The school previously distributed leaflets on World Mental Health Day, letting pupils know what steps they should take if they or someone they know are suffering with mental health problems.

Sir John Lawes School in Harpenden is running a wellbeing conference, with pupils taking part in sessions run by the school's Young Health Champions.

Assistant headteacher Emma Montgomery-Ward said: "A market place of stalls of local services that support young people's wellbeing will be open to staff, parents and students in the late morning and into the afternoon.

"We are also running OLLIE foundation Safetalk suicide prevention training for year 12 students and parents who have taken up a place from 9am to 12.30pm on the same day."

Jim McManus, the county council's director of public health, said: "Schools are important partners in our award-winning Just Talk campaign, actively encouraging children and young people to feel comfortable talking about their mental health and letting them know that it's fine to reach out for support if they are struggling to cope.

"The earlier that young people raise any worries that they may have, whether it's exam stress or relationships with their peers, the earlier something can be done to help."

A young person's clinic has recently been set up at Parkbury House surgery in St Albans, to provide a dedicated space for 11 to 25-year-olds to talk to specially trained GPs about any issues they face with their physical, mental and sexual health.

Dr Alison Cowan, who set up the clinic, said: "As Hertfordshire's 'Just Talk' campaign this week is encouraging young people to talk about their mental health, we're keen to spread the word that the young person's clinic is somewhere for young people to talk about how they're feeling and to get help with other health issues too."

Stacey Turner, founder of mental health awareness campaign It's OK To Say, said: "I am over the moon this initiative is available. It's a fantastic addition to our community.

"I can see why this confidential service is doing so well and I urge anyone aged 11 to 25 to make use of it for their physical and mental health and wellbeing."

Herts county council is running a competition for pupils to design their own short films on the theme of 'how to cope with exam pressure', after a survey of young people showed exams and tests are their number one worry.

Winners will get to work with a professional filmmaker to have their short films made, and also win £100 in vouchers.

Details of how to enter can be found at www.justtalkherts.org.

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