Clare Erasmus is the newly appointed Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing at Magna Carta School. She has been kind enough to agree to share her journey through a series of regular blog posts. Please take time to read, support and question.
Implementing a Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing program. Part 8: Tackling mental health support at grassroots; the power of peer mentoring
I ended the term on a real high as I saw over 40 of my students receive The National, Anti-Bullying Champions Award from @DianaAward signed by David Cameron.
This was the culmination of 5 years of work where we’ve witnessed a Peer Mentoring scheme having the power to reach out to the whole school; to produce conscientised activists bringing about real change through persistent public campaign work.
It all started with a group of my Media students who produced their GCSE film,‘Homophobia – our closeted education.’ It went on to educate thousands of students and teachers up and down the country and receive a special mention in the House of Commons.
They were driven by an ideology – homophobic language would not be tolerated in our school. It soon became apparent they wanted to be more than just media students – they wanted to promote their message every day; to educate the ignorant; to listen and signpost support for the victims; to make sure the staff were trained, educated and supporting this ideology; to be pre-emptive in their support and prevent Homophobia from having a breeding ground in our school. In short they were ‘inspirational.’ Thanks to the @DianaAward we discovered a pro-active program running in schools. We tapped into their comprehensive training and education programs and this is how our first cohort of Anti-Bullying Ambassadors started. I had truly experienced the power of student voice, the point where the peer mentors became activists bringing about real positive change.
Now, I also lead on Mental Health and Wellbeing and I hear many asking these BIG questions:
- How and where do we start raising the profile of Mental Health in our school?
- What can we do with limited resources?
- How can we actively engage the student body so they ‘buy’ into this ideology and we start to embed Mental Health awareness in our school?
After the success of the Anti-bullying ambassadors my answer is simple: Turn to your students. This year, we recruited 12 students from 37 applicants and launched our Wellbeing Ambassadors program. We used the services of @RelateWSurrey who delivered an impressive 15 hours of training in Peer Listening & Mental Health. Money well spent. Once again I hear the student desire to promote a message – @TimetoChange , a desire to educate, to listen and signpost support, to make sure the staff are trained and educated, to be pre-emptive in their support. In short they too are ‘inspirational.’
Finally, the words of Molly, who spoke at our Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing Teachmeet in May, captures the essence of this Youth drive & passion.
“I wanted to help students who feel the same way I once felt. I wanted for young teens to be able to have one person who would listen to their problems, like I wish I did. And knowing personally how much that can help someone get out of such a dark and desolate space drives me more.”
Clare Erasmus is currently Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing and Head of Creative Media Studies at a comprehensive secondary school in Surrey. Over the last 10 years she has collaborated with students and overseen major anti-homophobia and anti-bullying campaigns which have gained national recognition. ‘Homophobia – our closeted education’ was a film produced in 2011 by the students and has since been used by over 200 schools in training staff and students on what is homophobic language. In 2015 she embarked on a whole school mental health and wellbeing program which amongst many things involved the students creating their very own bespoke mental health & wellbeing app called My TeenMind. Recently, Clare also helped organise and host the UK’s first Youth Mental Health & Wellbeing Teachmeet.
She has also recently been announced as the runner up for the 2015/16 Community Champion Award . The Community Education Awards recognised Clare for making an outstanding contribution to helping children become positive community members.
Tweet Clare @cerasmusteach
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