Academy pupils create mental health journal to help young people during pandemic

A GROUP of pupils from a local school have produced a mental health journal to help other young people across the UK.

Working alongside Action for Children, as part of their wellbeing workshops included in the Blues Programme, pupils from Strabane Academy worked together to create resources to help young people focus on their wellbeing and mental health.

Their work has been recognised as especially important during this uncertain time for students as lockdown commences, closing schools across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The ‘Looking After Me’ journal, created for 11 to 16 year-olds, will be used by the mental health charity to help teach young people to think about their emotions and how that impacts their mental health.

Teacher Rhonda Dunn said the school is extremely proud of the pupils who have benefitted greatly from their work with Action for Children.

“We have been fortunate and delighted to welcome the staff from Action for Children into school to complete a range of programmes to support our young people in their mental health and wellbeing," she said.

"As a school, we recognise the need to source opportunities for our pupils to ensure they can have the best mental health support that can be offered, while also providing a solid foundation for individuals to deal with any future issues they may face."

Rhonda continued: "Mental health and wellbeing is a real issue in our society, and as a school we aim to have in place preventative measures and active support to respond to need.

"The pupils involved have greatly benefitted from the work of Action for Children, they speak positively about this opportunity and its individual impact.

“We are extremely proud of our pupils and the contribution they have made to the development of the journal. This will not only have a positive impact on pupils in our school community but young people across the United Kingdom.”

Abi, who is a Year 11 pupil, helped decide on the various activities and content to include in the journal, following her own experience on the Blues Programme.

"I think everyone could benefit from this book," she commented.

"It really can help your mental health and help you to calm yourself by getting your thoughts down on paper, it helps me.”

When young people returned to the classrooms in September 2020, the Blues Bouncing Back programme, specifically created as a response to the pandemic, supported 1,500 young people across the Northern Ireland, including those at Strabane Academy.

The programme is an evidence-based, six-week group intervention for 13 to 19-year olds with early symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It is based upon the principles of cognitive-behavioural therapy and aims to reduce participants’ mental health symptoms and boost their confidence.

The programme has been adapted to be used remotely and is continuing to provide support to young people across Northern Ireland during this lockdown.

The students who contributed to creating the journals, have all worked through the Blues Programme, looking for ways to recognise and manage their own feelings with anxiety.

“These journals give students a medium to express how they are feeling.

"They include questions and exercises to prompt them to think about their own feelings, but also leaves space to allow them to freely journal about any emotions they want to explore," said Rhonda Murphy, services co-ordinator for Blues Programme.

“The original idea was to give the journals to students once they had completed the Blues Programme, but I also knew when we were putting it together that it would be a great support and resource for so many other young people, including young carers and young people going into foster care, those dealing with loss or life changes, and young people just needing a medium to express themselves.

"It’s a vital resource for the times we’re currently facing as the mental health epidemic grows in Northern Ireland.”

To find our more about the programme, contact the Blues Team at blues@actionforchildren.org.uk

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