Monday 10th October was World Mental Health Day and to support this very important issue, Esher College, planned a week of events and activities to raise awareness. Students and staff were encouraged to attend a series of events which were all based around the theme 'Are you okay?'
Badges and posters were designed by one of our BTEC Creative Media Production students and the class also produced a series of short films, which were screened across college, encouraging people to talk about the issues. 'Tea and talk' sessions were run by our peer supporters: young people at Esher, trained in basic counselling. Students could drop in to ask questions or discuss specific mental health concerns. Kooth and I Need Help, specialist support groups and counsellors for young people, visited the College Café during lunchtime on the Wednesday and sweets and badges were distributed to promote the core message: that we should speak out about mental ill health and stop seeing it as a taboo subject.
As the week also coincided with National Coming Out Day, on 11th October, the Gender Sexuality Alliance chose to focus their regular meeting on the potential anxieties around coming out, inviting students and staff to discuss the challenges, in a safe space.
Friday was all about finding ways to mentally unwind. Events included: an introduction session into mindfulness techniques, a cathartic creative poetry writing workshop run by the English Department and a mental health jukebox in the College Café. Recognising the power of music, students were able to request songs that either made them feel uplifted or select those with mental health themes. The Learning Resource Centre also promoted bibliotherapy, inviting the college community to borrow a book and explore the therapeutic effects of reading.
Becky Voller, Esher College's Equality and Diversity Officer, said "It was great to see staff and students working together for such an important cause. We have had an increase in students coming forward to share mental health concerns and ask questions, which is exactly what we had hoped for."