BBC School Report 2018
BBC School Report: Are We Too Out of Focus on Mental Health?
By Chloe Johnson-Alcock, 15 March 2018.
News day: the day that children and young adults get the chance to showcase their journalistic talent after months of hard work and preparation. Targeted at students aged 11 – 18, the BBC School Report enables pupils of all ages to get involved in creating their own news and broadcasting it to a worldwide BBC audience via the internet.
Blythe Bridge High School and Sixth Form pulled together a team of eleven students spread across four different year groups between the ages of 13 and 18. Months of weekly meetings quickly raised a topic in which they were all interested: mental health. 10% of school children and young people have a clinically diagnosable mental health issue, and even those that don’t suffer from other issues such as stress. The team at BBHS wanted to investigate why so many people suffer, what young people think of mental health and what actions can be taken to benefit the people who need it.
16 million people suffer from a mental illness, yet mental health is still a subject that is widely stigmatised, meaning that most people avoid talking about it due to fear of being ostracized by the people around them. Despite the fact that three out of four mental illnesses start in childhood, the average wait for effective treatment is 10 years, yet in the meantime children and young people are suffering in silence. So, what are young people thinking when it comes to mental health?
The team interviewed a year 11 student mid-GCSE prep who raised the point that young people aren’t given enough support. When asked about the support that they receive, the student who wishes to remain anonymous claimed that support is based on understanding; the amount that a person understands, the more support they are able to give. The student also said “it’s easier to talk about it when you understand what is going on, and talking earlier definitely leads to a better outcome”. They also mentioned how their mental health has affected their GCSEs: “some days you just think, what’s the point? Why should I be here when I could be so much happier at home? Sometimes you’re just so physically and mentally tired”.
Surveys were also sent out school-wide via the internet to collect a consensus on body image and the effect that it has on mental health. From the results collected, the team discovered that 45% of boys and 59% of girls throughout the school are not confident with their appearance. These statistics show that out of the students that answered, over half of them have issues with body confidence; we wanted to know why. One of the biggest influences in modern day life is the media, and so it was the first place to turn. After further investigation we found that 20% of boys and 47% of girls feel insecure about their body due to images presented to them in the media. Lack of confidence can have detrimental effects on the mental health of young people and can cause a further decline in their mental wellbeing and cause extended issues such as depression and our statistics show that nearly a third of the students who responded to our survey feel that their confidence issues are being exacerbated by the media, social or otherwise.
So what can be done to ease the suffering of those not willing to seek help or waiting for effective treatment? Some members of the team spent their time preparing for the School Report by researching different kinds of mindfulness and the positive effects that they can have on mental health.
One of the most beneficial practices that the team found was reading. Due to the disassociation that can be achieved through reading, it enables sufferers to spend time, however long they choose, to be taken out of their own problems and away from the issues troubling them and instead empathise with the issues facing somebody else. The different genres widely available enable readers to choose how they want to escape and what kind of world they want to be immersed in, which often leads to increased happiness. The lack of any physical element also means that it is an option that is readily available to everyone, and it requires no commitment and so can be utilised as necessary. It can also provide a sense of peacefulness and calmness compared to what often can be a chaotic and intense routine, often allowing for quiet and personal time anytime and anywhere.
Colouring also came to be one of the most favourable options. It gives a definitive attention point that enables the sufferer to focus on one thing that demands 100% attention. This prevents negative thoughts from being able to focus due to preoccupation and means that the person is able to escape and be “blank” for a short period of time. The nature of the activity means that it can be a peaceful escape that can also channel feelings, and can be done through store-bought resources such as colouring books or resources that have been made at home, meaning that it is both economically friendly and mentally beneficial.
Running is the most physical of the options that the team found. It once again enables escapism yet also provides the opportunity for physical development. Whilst running, the mind is cleared and the main focus is simply where to run to. This can either result in the mind being empty, or in the ability to take a step back and observe issues from a different perspective. A group of students collaborated on a marathon effort to raise money for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice. Each student was allocated a set distance that they had to cover and could be done in any way, whether running, hopping or any other type of movement; after aiming to complete 26.2 miles collaboratively, they eventually finished nearer to 40 miles instead. Two members of staff are running the Virgin Money London Marathon on the 22nd of April for two different charities, one of which is Jody Marsden, Deputy Head of the English Department.
Jody started running as a way to help her own mental health and it quickly became a beneficial hobby. She started running in 2015 and since then has completed multiple half-marathons, her first in 2016. The 2018 London Marathon will be the first marathon that she has completed since taking up running 3 years ago. When asked about her hobby she said: “I find running incredibly therapeutic. I can switch off from the world, watch the views slowly change around me, listen to my music and concentrate on my breathing. Everything else just disappears”.