Westminster Insight event 16 Oct 18

 Massive interest in the mental health in school’s agenda

by Dean Johnstone

On 16 October 2018 I had the pleasure of chairing Westminster Insight’s conference, ‘Mental Health in Schools’. One of their biggest events, there were 260+ delegates from schools, colleges, LAs, NHS, governmental bodies, social enterprises, charities, media organisations and businesses.

With speakers from national charities, local NHS trusts, schools, social enterprises, clinical experts and government. However, the stars of the day were two young people from Chingford Foundation School, who bravely spoke about their mental health journeys, how their school supported them and the work they are now doing to help their peers. They remained as delegates for the whole day. One thing that they said still rings in my ears: “The mental health assessor spent longer talking to my parents than they did to me.”

All events should have young people present and attend as full speakers. They bring much needed different perspective on this issue, that we cannot just give voice to – we must act on and provide them with the tools to change the agenda.

During the day several themes kept repeating.

  • Keep the faith – you can make a difference and despite the set backs along the way your work is helping.
  • Seek help – there are passionate, motivated and experienced people out there able to support your endeavours. Let’s go on this journey together.
  • Leadership – there are so many examples of people inspiring others to be change that they wish to see, challenging and supporting their teams to ensure improved outcomes for children and young people.
  • Emerging evidence – school mental health is a new field, it is building momentum but it is still early days. We need to test and share to build that new evidence base.

As Chair, it was thrilling to see the 260+ delegates listening, talking, asking questions, sharing. All focused on supporting their schools to improve mental health. If each delegate makes one difference back in school – imagine the difference that will result in!