July 31, 2013

BaileyBailey went along to the Time to Change Young People's Village at the Birmingham International School as part of her work experience with us. Here are her impressions of the day...

Upon my first steps into the large and rather warm hall of Birmingham International School, I was greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of young people at the Time to Change Village.

These events aim to get people thinking and talking about mental health in order to break down stigmatising views and behaviour towards it. All of this was made possible on account of hardworking members of staff and many volunteers with experience of mental illnesses.

The village had many marquees. The first stalls were brimming with badges, bottles, bands and bags all with inspirational phrases written upon them about standing up to stigma. The next stalls involved activities to motivate the young people to get thinking about mental health; one with a ‘tree’ where students were able to write down their thoughts about mental illness on ‘leaves’ to be hung up. The other involved boxing to encourage the idea that having good physical health is linked to having good mental health.

An additional marquee was set up to enable the young people to play Time to Change’s PS3 game which encouraged young people to have fun playing the game while also having to demonstrate their knowledge of mental health to pass onto the next level. Finally, there was a cinema in the ‘village’ where ‘stand up kid’ was played to the young people, which was followed by a discussion of their thoughts on the message it conveyed.

During my brief visit to the International School I watched ‘Stand up Kid’ along with one of the groups of children aged around 13. The campaign video expresses a strong message about eliminating stigma among young people who have mental illnesses, and heaps of students agreed with the meaning.

Sadly, one student seemed adamant that mental health should not be talked about because “People would laugh, so it’s better to keep it to yourself.” This demonstrates the severe reality of some people’s opinion of mental health and highlights exactly the reason why these events are so important, especially with young people who can be so easily influenced and may have misconceptions about mental health.

Proof of how important the event was showed in the widespread positive impact of both the film and the discussion following it. Many of the young people I interview expressed how it had changed their original perspective on mental illnesses and countless others, after watching, understood that stigma can make it even more difficult for people experiencing mental health problems. Teachers also conveyed how constructive they believed the event had been in cultivating a more broad awareness of mental health among the students.

Altogether the event was very successful. One of the teachers at the school is determined to include learning about mental health as part of PSHE lessons.

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