Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

Taking mental health seriously

Taking mental health seriously

It's nice to be looking forward to a long weekend! I hope in particular our Year 11 students, who go on study leave today, manage to strike that vital balance  between last-minute (surely, planned?) revision before their GCSEs start on Tuesday and that necessary weekend pause to rest and recuperate.

I'm serious! So highly motivated and hardworking is the average RGS student that we do need to remind our girls and boys of the need to take breaks, to get exercise and fresh air, to relax and to get enough sleep.

Our Pastoral Director, Mrs Baillie, and I were reminded of this yesterday (Thursday) while spending a day in London at HMC's national day conference on the subject of mental health. There was an excellent array of experts who addressed us in the morning, not least Natasha Devon MBE, who is doing great work on behalf of the government - and pushing policy-makers hard when she needs to. There isn't enough resource yet being put into supporting the mental health of the young, let alone dealing with mental illness in that age-group - we need Natasha as a champion!

In the afternoon, Mrs Baillie and I presented a workshop describing our journey at RGS from worrying, arguably slightly helplessly, about mental health problems amongst our students, to the strongly proactive, confident and well-informed approach we've adopted in recent years. We have much to be proud of: we have much still to do.

Yet while students are readier than ever to share their problems with their teachers and our medical staff: while teachers and support staff (and members of the Sixth Form) have received Mental Health First Aid training to make them both confident and competent in dealing with students who seek help; and, while we spread the word as far as we can to parents (and offer those few but valuable sessions through a dedicated event or at a plenary before a parents' conference), we can assure parents that they aren't alone and that we can work with them if their children are in trouble or distress; in all these ways we are addressing what is a national problem, affecting the students of RGS as much as, but no more than, every school in the land.

The statistics of mental health problems among the young are sobering: our passion for doing something about the situation is unlimited. Together we are making real progress.

Have a great Bank Holiday all!

Bernard Trafford
Headmaster