Sussex schools start vital conversations about mental health with their students

More than 50 schools across Sussex have taken part in a campaign in collaboration with local NHS mental health services to start a conversation with their students and staff about the things we can all do to look after our mental health and emotional wellbeing.

The 'my mental health promise' campaign was created by Sussex Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which is provided by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. In September all the primary schools across Sussex were contacted and invited to take part in the campaign, of which 56 signed up. 

A mental health promise is a statement or pledge of something you will do to look after your own mental health or to support the mental health of a friend or loved one. The idea was really simple which meant that it was easy for schools to take part and deliver the campaign in a way that worked for their students, such as by holding assemblies or delivering workshops which focused on mental health.

Thomas A Becket Junior School in Worthing took part in the campaign, and delivered activities with their pupils in lessons. They also held a number of assemblies to talk about mental health and the mental health promises.

Charlotte Jameson, Enrichment and Wellbeing Teacher at Thomas A Becket Junior School, said: "As a school we have already been planning for and embracing opportunities to raise the profile of mental health and have been working closely with Louisa Hernandez, West Sussex Mind Anti-Stigma Manager, to integrate this work across the school throughout the year as part of the Open Minds project.

"We were really pleased to see the local CAMHS service create the ‘mental health promise’ campaign and were keen to get involved as it gave us another opportunity to build on this.

"The wellbeing boxes we created as part of the Open Minds project have been really successful and are an ongoing activity so that our pupils can continue to add to them and use them. Their mental health promises are inside these and have also been added to their personal reflection books.

"We thought it was important that our staff were also given the opportunity to reflect on their mental health too so they were gifted wellbeing boxes as well. 

"We were pleased to be able to take part in the mental health promise campaign and will definitely consider any future campaigns like this that are created by CAMHS."

Ruth Hillman, Operational Director for Children and Young People's Services at Sussex Partnership, said: "The positive response we received to this campaign was brilliant and definitely surpassed our expectations.

"I want to thank all the schools that took part. We know that the key to good mental and emotional health in and throughout adulthood starts with good mental and emotional health in childhood.

"We are currently gathering feedback from all who took part to find out what it was like for them, anything we could have done differently etc. and of the responses received so far 100% have said they would like to take part in a campaign with us again in the future, which is excellent.

"For 2020 we are planning to build on the success of the mental health promise campaign and open it up to a wider age range, so that even more young people and staff can benefit from having these vital conversations about mental health."

It is still not too late to take part in the campaign. Any schools or organisations who are interested in taking part can email communications@sussexpartnership.nhs.uk and will be sent some useful resources. 

Sussex CAMHS have a website which has mental health information and helpful tips for young people, parents/carers and professionals: www.sussexcamhs.nhs.uk.