School: St. Joseph’s Patrician College (The Bish), Galway
Teacher: Ms. Sarah Gleeson.
My school has approached Headstrong in two ways. Firstly, we invite students to join the Headstrong Committee which promotes positive mental health within the school. Currently we have eight TY and 5th Year students on the committee. We also have a further five 6th Year students who assist. They were our first Headstrong Committee and they like to continue to be involved.
Our Committee has a Microsoft Team set up for ease of communication. There we share ideas about activities and projects. We also have a monthly meeting (in person or online) where we look at the various themes in the Toolkit.
At the start of the year, we look at the themes and link them to various times of the year. While we don’t cover every theme, we always look at the core themes and then make a decision on the others. An example of this would include Grief. We link this to November as we are a Catholic ethos school and we mark it as the month of remembrance. We previously put a Remembrance Tree in the main foyer of the school and invited class groups to come to the tree (sometimes through Religion and sometimes through a Wellbeing Module) to write the name of a loved one on a tag provided and hang it from the tree. Behind the tree, we also had a display board with conversation starters. One of the things the Committee discussed in the past was how to sympathise with someone following a bereavement. Some of my students said that they had felt ‘awkward’ speaking to someone who had been bereaved and didn’t know what to say. They didn’t want to ‘make things worse’. The conversation starters are simple and basic but the students came up with them themselves. Many used their own experiences to say what they were comfortable or not comfortable with.
Coping with Stress as an Adolescent is one of the core themes. This year, our plan is to organise a Colour Run. We contacted the local county council who were able to secure us with a permit free of charge for a local green area. We ordered coloured powders online and liaised with our Parents’ Council in securing this. The Committee felt that this activity could be linked to Physical Health as well as Mental Health promoting a positive way of coping with stress – showing people the importance of physical activity (running). We are scheduling this event before the Easter Holidays as we feel that it will be a healthy way for our Leaving Cert students in particular to cope with stress of their exams and revision.
As well as the Headstrong Committee meeting to organise events and activities such as the ones above, we also deliver a Headstrong Module to second year students. We are hoping to extend this to further year groups at Junior Cycle Level. Under Wellbeing, we have arranged for 1 class per week on a 6 week rotation for all 2nd year students. Other modules under Wellbeing include Digital Literacy, Swimming, Learning to Learn, Mindfulness and Guidance. The module starts with the Porcupine Map where we look at the language we use on a day to day basis and in the classes we look at the different areas of mental health. The Toolkit was instrumental in this module and it has been quite successful so far in starting conversations at a younger age about mental health. We look at coping strategies, support networks and resilience building. The Decisional Balance sheet exercise has also been important in looking at the choices we make. The video clips online have also been quite helpful and the students can relate well to them. In recent times we had our first Stand Up Awareness Week and it was great to have so many engaged second year students who participated.
These are just some of the ways you can introduce the Headstrong Programme into your school. There are many worksheets, lesson plans and video clips that can be used and shared with your students making it easy to deliver. The very best of luck!