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Children and young people face a range of issues and pressures whilst they are growing up, with mental health concerns proving to be an escalating issue. Within a class of 30 children 3 will have a diagnosable mental health issue. Teachers report increases in children with anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, but do not feel they have the adequate training, skills or knowledge to provide the support needed.
Add the stigma attached to the words ‘mental health’, and you have children scared to admit they need support; using unhealthy coping mechanisms as they feel unable or ashamed or unaware of how to ask for help. The key to addressing stigma associated with mental health is education. Increasing awareness of the symptoms, causes/triggers and treatment for mental health difficulties amongst children and young people can help reduce negative perceptions of mental illness.
To try and tackle this issue we have teamed up with Mythical Mechanical Monstrous Masterclasses (4M) an organisation dedicated to education and teaching through puppetry, improvisation and interactive performance. To deliver 2-hour workshops about anxiety, depression, self-harm and help (using puppets to represent each issue and to act as the teachers of the session), in hope to increase children’s engagement with these topics, deliver key information about them and create opportunities for active participation from the children. We want children to understand the high prevalence of these disorders, recognise and reflect on their own feelings, and to be able to apply their learning after the workshop in order to seek help and advice should they feel they need it.
The four aims of the educational workshops:
* To de-stigmatise mental health disorders in children through increased engagement, fun and theatrical representation.
* To make children aware of the symptoms, characteristics and triggers
* To increase awareness of coping mechanisms and where and how they may get help and support
* To prompt ongoing discussion and classroom activities to create a thriving, transparent wellbeing environment.