An initiative designed to promote positive mental health and wellbeing has proved so beneficial at an Island school, the partnership has been extended.

King William’s College first teamed up with Isle Listen in late 2019, shortly after the charitable initiative was launched to better equip the Island’s children and young people with the skills and resilience required to navigate the mental health and emotional challenges of 21st Century life.

Over the past year Isle Listen school facilitators embedded themselves within the College as a visible extension to the existing teaching staff with the primary aim of offering support and ‘listening’ services to students, helping them better manage their mental wellbeing.

Following informal discussions with students, the Isle Listen offering has now been increased and services extended. These include confidential group sessions and one-to-one conversations with pupils, as well as helping teachers recognise the signs of potential mental wellbeing problems and signposting students to the specialist support available from Isle Listen.

Annabel Chambers, Isle Listen Project Lead, said:

‘While there is a growing awareness of the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing on the Island, by providing education, prevention and early intervention we aim to alleviate pressure on the statutory health services and avoid the unnecessary escalation of mental health problems which can make recovery more difficult the longer they are undiagnosed. The fantastic support we have received from King William’s College and its students over the past year has enabled us to affect real change by equipping students with the self-management skills to navigate the psychological challenges of daily life. For young people to know there is a private space to talk in confidence about what’s worrying them, whether that be school, relationships, friendships, exam stress or anything else they’d like to chat to someone about, is important.’

Recent research in the UK has shown a need for urgent action among the younger generation with one in eight 5-19-year olds displaying a mental health problem. It is estimated that 50% of all adult mental health problems have already developed by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.

‘After our initial discussions with the senior management team at the College, our school facilitators created a bespoke programme that we initially aimed at International Baccalaureate students and boarders, however the school quickly recognised the wider-reaching benefits of the programme to its other year groups,’ Annabel added.

While the Isle Listen team help students become more self-aware and work with them in setting positive goals – allowing them to recognise factors within their control that are contributing to positive and negative moods – the team believes it’s equally important to provide awareness training to all school staff, parents and carers.

She continued:

‘Greater responsibilities continue to fall to educational and teaching staff, and we strive to support them and ensure they are comfortable in raising conversations around mental health and know where to signpost young people to appropriate further specialist services.’

King William’s College Deputy Head Pastoral Stuart Corrie says raising awareness around young people’s mental health can have significant benefits.

‘Every young person deserves the support they need for their talents to flourish and to play a full and positive role in the life of the community. Likewise, school staff cannot expect to be mental health experts,’ he explained.

‘As an initiative, the work with Isle Listen is proving to be really effective and young people have engaged with it from the outset. The younger pupils have been inquisitive, and the teachers are also keen and appreciate the fact that help is available if and when required. It is a venture which really is beneficial throughout the whole school.’

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