Mental health prevention for young people
We feel the need to calm down while in school. Being there for 7-8 hours a day, with noise and a lot of tension, we need space to relax, if only for 15 minutes. We lack the knowledge of how to calm down, relax and regenerate ourselves. This knowledge and skills are needed not only for us, but also for the whole school community, including teaching staff and parents. We have a problem with good nutrition and exhaustion due to too much homework.
Suggestions for activities to be implemented:
A quiet corner in each school
Create a space in each school, e.g. a room or a separate part of the corridor for relaxation and quiet time. Place comfortable poufs, loungers, mats. These could be, for example, reading areas where pupils can borrow books from other pupils, discuss them or simply lie down in silence and breathe. In such corners, it will be possible to get simple instructions on how to relax with, for example, breathing exercises or a short meditation. Through such activities, we will create an opportunity to relax for a short time, to get away from excess stimuli and exhaustion. Such a space should be free of social media, internet and mobile phones.
During parent-teacher, religion or physical education lessons, instead of the traditional sitting in desks, we take walks together to spend time actively, oxygenate the brain, break out of the routine and simply relax.
Not a certificate, but a person for six
A campaign to promote a mindset among teachers, parents and students themselves that a grade on a single test or answer sheet is not equal to our worth. To draw attention to the fact that although grades are important to many people, they are not an indicator of our worth. We can also fulfil ourselves through our passions, hobbies and social activities.
Workshop programme for schools - sharing information about organisations, coaches etc.
Create a list of proven individuals/organisations who are willing to run workshops on e.g. social skills, time planning, management, motivation (general self-development). Such activities could be conducted during lessons with the tutor or even after school as additional workshops for those who are willing. This is to gather information and network the community that deals with this type of education. Such a list could be made, for example, by the Education Department of the City of Białystok.
Healthy pupils, healthy Bialystok
Implementation by the city of projects related to healthy eating among young people, starting with awareness (media campaign), then transferring knowledge (debates, conferences, workshops), and in the next stage implementing practice (implementing changes e.g. in school canteens or introducing standards in school food vending machines or e.g. introducing "healthy food kits" in secondary schools (following the example of primary schools)).
Slower afternoons and weekends
Hold discussions and develop solutions to reduce the homework burden, especially at the weekend. This will allow pupils to gain some respite. They will be able to devote their free time to their development through various activities or to simply relax, reducing their fatigue after a full week of work. One of the positives will be the conscious origin of the student to study on the days set aside for it. One option could be to not give lessons in subjects in which the student is not preparing for any exams (baccalaureate, vocational exams) or to not give homework on weekends.
The topic of depression is very important to us. We see around us how our friends increasingly have problems with constant bad moods, with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. The topic of depression is no longer a taboo subject for us: we want to talk about it, we already know quite a lot. Unfortunately, we sometimes feel ignored by adults. We also have problems accessing professionals, sometimes fearing that the school psychologist will not be discreet. We need safe spaces to talk about our problems, thoughts and dilemmas.
Proposals for activities to be implemented:
Create a Youth Centre in an abandoned building owned by the city to serve as a space for prevention activities. The centre should offer psychological support, counselling, workshops on dealing with emotions, and act as a place where young people can meet, talk and support each other;
Awareness campaigns on depression/the impact of social media on young people's sense of self-worth
Carry out online and social media awareness campaigns to educate young people and the public about depression, overstimulation, and to show a true picture of life, rejecting idealised images. Including influencers in this campaign can help to reach a younger audience.
This could be implemented in a competition format for young people.
Education in schools
Work with the Department of Education to create a list of professionals and organisations that can come to schools and give workshops, talks and lectures on mental health prevention, stress and emotion management during parenting hours.
Education of parents
Organise meetings with parents about depression and mental health problems. Imparting knowledge about behaviours that may indicate a pre-depressive state or depression. Encouraging the use of specialist support. Acquiring the skills to select people suitable for therapeutic work.
Emphasising that depression is an illness, not a sentence, and that there are effective forms of treatment. Avoiding the stigma associated with psychotherapy and psychiatrists. Promoting the use of psychological and psychotherapeutic help as a natural behaviour in caring for mental health.
Popularise the helpline for young people. This is a much-needed way of first contact with a psychologist outside of school. Anonymity and a sense of security that the information provided about wellbeing will not be used inappropriately is important here.
First visit to the psychologist without parental consent
Introduce the possibility of a first visit to a psychologist or therapist without parental consent. This will allow young people to feel more independent and enable them to seek support if they are not ready, if they do not want to inform their parents about their problems and/or if the parents do not agree to see a psychologist, e.g. because they think that depression is not an illness and that the child does not need to see a psychologist, but can, for example, go for a run.
Stress accompanies us every day: at school, in the family, it is part of our relationships with our peers. School is a source of very high stress: a lot is demanded of us, we are not built a relationship with us, we are just trying to pass on knowledge and test it. How do we cope with stress? Through stimulants, shutting ourselves away, we escape from reality. Our bodies react with insomnia, headaches. We need knowledge about how to deal with stress. But we also need more support and acceptance and less pressure.
Proposed activities to be implemented:
Social campaign "Visiting a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist is ok".
Social campaign to present visiting such a specialist as something normal, important, not stigmatising. Asking parents not to underestimate their children's problems and to allow them to benefit from such services. Emboldening young people to want to use such support.
Supporting the building of people-to-people links between residents
Supporting or organising various events to integrate the community, especially young people, e.g. board games in the park, a dance in the centre. We need places where it is not stressful but encouraging and everyone, even alone, can come and meet people.
Anti-stress workshops in schools
We see a need for workshops in schools to teach young people how to deal with stress. For example, meditation or breathing exercises.