Magherafelt school launches mental health awareness campaign
Students from St Pius X College in Magherafelt are tackling mental health concerns head-on with a marketing campaign offering advice and support to fellow pupils, as part of World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10th October).
The project organised by Fresh Minds Education is one of 15 to have received funding in January as part of ARTiculate, a three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people.
The year 14 students (aged 17 and 18) attended visual arts, music and design thinking workshops during the summer combined with some uplifting healthy lives workshops, with visual artist Aisling Renolds, Adam Wallace from FabLab Belfast, Marcella Gilliland from Community Tribal Drumming and Michelle A. Major from the Sunshine Project. The group explored issues around mental health, developing resilience and fostering wellbeing. Although the sessions examined some of the causes of stress including bullying, exams, divorce and bereavement, it also looked at practical ways of coping and the strengths that can be gained from working through life's difficulties.
As part of the project the group of ten year 14 students developed a series of posters and postcards to disseminate around the school and worked tirelessly creating artwork with the new year 8 students to help develop positive connections in their first weeks at their new school. This week, as the project reaches its final stages, the year 14 group will share what they have learnt at a series of special assemblies which they will host for year 8, 9 and 10 pupils.
Aine Wallace from Fresh Minds Education co-ordinated the project:
“The Fresh Minds Education vision is to support young people rise up from their experiences of hurt and struggle in a way that allows them to live more wholehearted lives. We know that working with emotions is tough work but we also know that running away from them is tougher. We were asking the young people from St Pius X to be brave, to try something new, to dare to be vulnerable.
“Under the leadership of their Year Head Mr Niall Hasson the group went from strength to strength and surpassed all of their own expectations. It was heartening to watch them find their feet during the project and it was a very courageous step they took in deciding to run assemblies for up to 500 school pupils. They certainly demonstrated an abundance of creativity and a determination to make a difference, and at the same time they developed their own new understandings of what it means to protect and nourish mental wellbeing.
“This work is about way more than supporting illness, this work is about supporting and nourishing wellness, resilience and cultivating a life worth living, it is these powerful positive messages that now ripple through their art work and will hopefully connect with the hearts and minds of pupils of the school".
Lorraine Calderwood, ARTiculate Programme Manager, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:
“The positive links between engagement in the arts and wellbeing are firmly established. Working together with the Public Health Agency, the Arts Council is supporting a diverse range of projects right across Northern Ireland that open up opportunities for young people to engage in the arts and the many benefits that brings, such as promoting self-expression, and developing self-confidence and self-motivation.
“Today is World Mental Health Day, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma and we are very pleased to be here in St. Pius X school where year 14 pupils have developed a fantastic arts project around those themes. The postcards and posters that they have created will leave a lasting legacy in the school, offering help and guidance to younger pupils now and in the future.”
Maurice Meehan, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, Public Health Agency Northern Area, said:
“This programme is a great example of how arts can be used in an innovative way to give a voice to young people and encourage help-seeking behaviour. The PHA recognise the positive impact that the arts can play in improving the mental health and wellbeing of our young people. The participants benefit in a number of ways such as making new friends, learning new skills, gaining confidence in their abilities. They also learn about the mental health support that is available to them.”
The first 15 organisations to be awarded funding through the ARTiculate programme were announced in January. The programme will run over three years and it is anticipated that approximately 35 projects will benefit from funding. The programme is delivered by artists and arts organisations working in partnership with youth and community organisations linked to the PHA across a range of health improvement themes.