To mark Mental Health Awareness week, the annual Schools’ Mental Health Festival saw a range of activities such as stories, dance, Zumba, yoga, mindfulness, art, songs, discussion and research taking place across Gibraltar’s schools.
Our schools covered a range of important themes including: exercise and mental health, talking about emotions, promoting and spreading kindness, the importance of smiling, determination, courage and resilience, positivity, being kind to your mind, understanding the teenage brain, managing worries and anxiety, building self-esteem, creating a failure friendly environment, healthy relationships and breaking the mental health stigma.
The mental health multi agency forum worked to support each other; GHA, Government Staff Well Being, essential services, GibSams, ChildLine and Club House each contributed and played their part in making the festival a success.
Peninsula sponsored the event and GibSams hosted the visit of two mental health champions from the UK: Steve Phillips, founder of the Jordan Legacy, and Tanya Marwaha from Championing Youth Minds. The Jordan legacy was founded by Steve soon after his son took his own life. The aim of this charity is to provide hope for anyone who is feeling suicidal. Tanya founded Championing Youth Minds as a result of her struggles with her own mental health including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.
Steve and Tanya delivered talks to younger school children focussing on kindness to others and themselves - they encouraged children to talk about their feelings and reach out if they were sad. To older pupils they addressed healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety and touched upon more serious topics such as self-harm and suicide. Teachers and GibSams listeners were on hand to support any young person who was impacted.
Later in the day, staff were invited to a presentation on loss and bereavement entitled "Working through Loss Together" delivered by both Steve and Tanya. After this there were activities for staff to enjoy whilst helping to develop a holistic wellbeing, both physically and mentally. The activities on offer included trampolining, CBT for relaxation, board games, karaoke, with refreshments also on offer so that the staff got a chance to socialise and chat.
In the evening, parents and guests were invited to attend a presentation from our speakers Steve and Tanya who jointly spoke about "Moving Towards a Zero Suicide Society". This event was well attended by parents, guests and members of the multiagency forum. We have been very privileged to have heard Steve and Tanya who spoke from their own experiences. Their talks were extremely emotive and tugged at the heartstrings of their audience, allowing listeners to benefit from their own learning journeys through most challenging circumstances. Attendees welcomed the opportunity to engage with the important and sensitive themes, with a view to increasing their own understanding and to providing the best support possible for individuals within our community.
The Department of Education continues to place children, young people and staff wellbeing as a central priority and, whilst working within a strong multi-agency forum, all HMGoG schools promote the key focus within every setting.
Reflecting on the Schools Mental Health Festival, Steve Phillips, said: ‘It has been an emotionally charged time for all who have participated in this mental health festival but a hugely positive, uplifting and hope filled few days too.’
The Minister for Education, the Hon John Cortes, said: ‘I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the professionals who contributed to this important event. Mental Health at school and Mental Health education is crucial for pupils, teachers and parents and this annual festival is an important conversations and learnings to take place in a safe and supportive environment.’