Samuel Ward students give HAVE YOU their views on mental health and wellbeing

At the beginning of February 2022 HAVE YOU spoke to a group of Samuel Ward Academy students, between the ages of 12 – 17, to get their views on mental health and wellbeing..

We covered some big questions and members of the group raised some very important points!

Here’s what the group told us about the kind of pressures affecting young people:

  • Social media’s a big one…. Tik Tok in particular. There are trends going about that everyone follows – it can really get people into quite a low place.
  • Most young people feel a lot of pressure from themselves as well as pressure from their teachers or parents. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to do their best all the time and be 100% all the time.
  • I think school in general can be really stressful because they make out your GCSEs can predict everything for your future.
  • I find so many teachers and parents compare you to other students. This puts more pressure on you to study because you’re being compared on a daily basis.
  • Teachers put it as if ‘if you don’t pass this exam it’s going to end your life… you are not going to have a life after this if you fail it’.. That puts a lot more pressure on us.

And here are their tips for managing worry and stress that might be helpful to other young people?

  • I write all my thoughts on a piece of paper  – how I’m feeling – then screw it up and throw it in the bin.. It seems to help a bit.
  • I find physical activity – being out doing something is really helpful – even for a walk, a run, going to the gym.. It’s helpful to take your mind off the problem.
  • I find doing a drawing or something helps – just to pass the time, to have a think..
  • Getting fresh air, going outside – clears your head a bit..
  • Creativity! I love the performing arts – it’s sort of an escapism to act as someone else for a bit. If I’ve got an issue myself, whatever I’m feeling, by the end of it I forget why I was feeling like that. It’s fun and it takes your mind off it. I find it very good.
  • Prioritise making time for other things – for yourself and your own mental health. I feel like that’s what people need to do more of!

We all want to do the best we can… Ok yes, let’s revise, but let’s also make time for ourselves and make time to talk to our friends and socialise.

Stats say that mental health is currently a big issue for young people (see the latest Young Minds figures) – HAVE YOU wanted to know if this has been the experience for Haverhill’s young people?

  • I definitely think that mental health’s a big issue – and I definitely think it’s talked about alot. There are also alot of resources to help with it.
  • I think it’s definitely worse since Covid and the lockdown – it’s made people who already had mental health issues before a lot worse, mainly because people were more alone and isolated.
  • I think there’s more of a light shining on it now – before it wasn’t really talked about. People are recognizing it more. I think it’s good that people are not hiding it so much and not stigmatising it so much..
  • I feel it’s more an awareness we have now because of Coronavirus and lockdown. Before I didn’t know anything about it.. So I feel like coronavirus has helped.

So if young people locally need a bit of support do they know where to go and do they actually get the support they need?

  • I definitely think there’s a lot of options – in schools it’s very highly prioritised. I know every week in our notices we’re told when the nurse is coming in. There are always posters up or a number to message… there’s always somewhere we can go. We’re made so aware of it. I find that really helpful.
  • I don’t really know of any places locally but there’s always people online or people offered in school. I guess some people might be scared to go to other people locally or people they don’t know.. There’s always that fear of talking about mental health.
  • Me and my friends always talk about it… It would be so nice if you could actually go to a doctor and actually talk to them about mental health. I know in my friend group we’ve all contacted our GP at least once in the past year asking for help. They basically said they can’t do anything. It would be so nice just to be able to talk to someone about it.
  • It would be good if we were directed to different organisations without having to be going to our teachers in school. Even though we have great support here you don’t always want to go to your teachers. You don’t always want to be on the safeguarding radar. You just want to get help outside of school.

How would you go about supporting your friends if they were having difficulties?

  • I think everyone works in different ways. All you can do is offer your support and say that you’re there. It’s up to them if they take that up or do something of their own choice that makes them feel better.
  • I guess all you can really do is offer yourself..

What do you think might be good for Haverhill to help young people with their wellbeing?

  • I think there should be a place where we can talk about it.
  • There could also be a place where people can go and just forget about it… like a Youth Club. A place where people can just be who they want to be!  Playing football.. Doing little things… active things / creative things… it can boost morale so much!

Have fun and keep yourself mentally well!

What do you think are the issues that most need addressing?

  • If I want to die I can get the support I need. As soon as you don’t have those thoughts or wishes then you don’t get the support you need… and you have to go and find it. And not a lot of people are mentally able to go out and find the support!
  • You have to get to rock bottom before you actually get the support you need in that moment… Sometimes that can push people to get to rock bottom sooner. If there was more early intervention that might help (Sophie Ireland – Teacher)
  • The more it’s left the worse it will get for anyone struggling with it…. It’s a chain of events… if someone has a mental health issue or is affected by something, if no one notices it’s going to get worse..

We need to deal with mental health and recognise the issues early on. It’s important that as a community or society we begin to recognise this…..