“When it comes to mental health, being able to communicate or voice feelings is the most difficult step. They’ll say: ‘I need help with this, but I don’t really understand what is going on in my head, or who to talk about this or what to do.’”
The emotional and powerful content of the topics covered means that a key part of the Positive Futures programme is about providing 1-2-1 or pastoral support.
Support during lockdown
During the height of lockdown with schools closed, delivery of the programme moved online. A number of the schools the programme worked with decided to open up the workshops to all in the school.
But as lockdown progressed, it became clear that it wasn’t just students’ mental health that needed attention, but parents’ too.
“Through our schools, we were told that parents were really feeling the strain over lockdown,” says Stuart. “Parents were telling staff ‘My child’s okay, but I’m really struggling.’”
The team started running additional Positive Futures afternoon sessions for both parents and children. The uptake was great, and the feedback glowing. “Parents told us that they were discussing the themes with their children over dinner,” continues Stuart.
As successful as the online sessions were, as soon as it was safe-to-do-so – and thanks to a comprehensive lateral flow testing programme – the Positive Futures team were back in schools delivering their vital work in-person. This early access to the schools was rare; many other external organisations, charities or support groups are still not delivering in-person sessions.
A unique bond
Why do the team feel that students find it easy to open up to them?
“It normally takes three or four weeks of delivering to them, to develop that trust,” begins Stuart. “It might be that you are saying something that resonates, or you stick up for them. There’s that moment when you just know that the student thinks: ‘Ok, I can trust them’ and a barrier comes down.”
“What kids are telling me now, compared to last year, highlights a lot more concern for overall wellbeing. We’re super busy this half term and schools are really seeing the value of our work.
“The positive thing is that everyone seems to be more open about talking about mental health.”
To find out more about the Positive Futures programme, click here.