Young people using their voices to contribute to positive mental health - Kristoffer Gray

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Children and young people can offer a unique perspective. By involving them in decision-making, schools can create meaningful change and implement better support systems so that their students can emotionally develop, as well as achieve academically.

Since Covid, the UK has seen a cost-of-living crisis resulting in families being under enormous pressure. It’s no surprise that there has been an upsurge in children and young people experiencing mental health issues. These now affect one in six children – or five in every classroom.

Schools with a strong commitment to pupil voices have reported many positive benefits and outcomes, including a decline in exclusions, better behaviour, and improving attainment and attendance.

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I am a Place2Be School Project Manager at Carrick Academy, a secondary school in South Ayrshire. Since the Place2Be service was embedded in 2020, I have provided one-to-one counselling sessions to 68 pupils. These pupils have presented themselves with issues such as anxiety, family and friendship breakdowns and increasing self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

Kristoffer Gray, School Project Manager, Place2BeKristoffer Gray, School Project Manager, Place2Be
Kristoffer Gray, School Project Manager, Place2Be

With 390 pupils on the school role, I have seen the school take pride in using its pupil voice to challenge the stigma around mental health. For example, a Wellbeing Assessment Day was held earlier on in the year. It was a great opportunity for staff to understand some of the barriers that students face at school, academically and with their mental health.

Thomas Purdie and Eden Wallace are two students from Carrick Academy who positively promote mental health services offered by Place2Be and in the wider school community.

Thomas and Eden use their compassion to champion mental health and other issues that the pupils face during school council meetings and support younger pupils in their transition from primary schools.

I recall a time when they communicated their feelings towards the school’s mental health support services and how the prospect of seeking help could be daunting – with some pupils expressing worries about what happens inside the counselling room. This enabled me to think of different ways in which I communicate the counselling process to students and staff members.

As exceptional ambassadors, Thomas and Eden went on to win the Young Champion Awards at Place2Be’s Wellbeing in Schools Awards, with Thomas commenting: “It was exciting, and it meant that we could go forth to show how we have used our voice to contribute to positive mental health and wellbeing.”

By listening to children or a young person’s perspective, it can inspire them to actively advocate for a mentally healthy school.

Place2Be is a charity providing children's mental health support in Scotland, working with schools across Glasgow, Edinburgh, South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Angus, Perth & Kinross, Dundee, North and South Ayrshire and the Highlands. Place2Be is grateful for its generous supporters, including the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Kristoffer Gray, School Project Manager, Place2Be

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