Pupils from two schools in Argyll and Bute have been working in partnership with the Argyll and Bute Choose Life project in a bid to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst young people.
Tarbert Academy and Oban High School pupils have been taking part in two separate projects with Choose Life to highlight the concept of mental wellbeing and find a creative way of sharing their thoughts to a wider audience.
Following a series of workshops, pupils from Tarbert decided to create a short video using their own ideas, based on encouraging young people to look out for each other’s mental wellbeing and get a positive message out to teenagers. Tigershark TV was commissioned for the project and together “Behind the Smile” was created.
Tarbert Academy’s Head Teacher, Neil McKnight said: “I am truly blown away by how enthusiastic the students have been about the project. We started off with around 30 pupils at the initial workshops but the project was a huge commitment and over the months this number reduced to around 6 or 7.
“The remaining pupils gave the project 100% and together with our Drama and Principal Teacher of Support for Learning Melissa James, Tracy from Choose Life and Tigershark TV, the film went from strength to strength.
“Head teachers have been aware for some time of a need to help support young people who are experiencing mental health issues and this project is an attempt, in partnership with Choose life, to produce a tool which can be used by all schools – made by pupils to help support pupils.
“I feel that young people are more likely to listen to people their own age when dealing with sensitive issues like self harm/suicide etc and the production of this film, along with film maker Stewart Campbell from Tigershark, has been an extremely valuable learning experience for the young people involved.
“A number of workshops were held with the group to teach them about mental health vs mental illness, stigma and what creates suicide risk. These proved extremely beneficial.”
Pupils at Oban High School also created a short film, this time focussing on self harm. Tigershark worked closely with students over the course of a day and together a loose collection of ideas was shaped into an engaging and thought-provoking film called “Opening up about Self Harm”, aimed at raising awareness of self-harm and shedding light on some of the key issues.
By using their hands as puppets instead of actors, the film takes the focus away from the individuals involved and allows the issues to become the centre of the film. These included the difficulties of broaching emotionally-charged issues such as who to talk to and when to talk to them, as well as recognising that talking isn't always easy but how opening up and seeking help is usually the best course of action.
The film was launched at a conference held at Kilmory last year to launch the Integrated Children's Service Guidance: Young People at Risk of Suicide or Self-harm.
Head Teacher at Oban High School, Peter Bain said: “I am so proud of the professional and mature attitude that the pupils had throughout the process and I hope that the film can be used to encourage young people to look out for each other and take away from the stigma surrounding mental health.
“The film focusses on encouraging young people to open up about their feelings instead of bottling them up inside. This is something we feel strongly about at Oban High School. Mental health affects 1 in 10 young people in the UK. The emotional wellbeing of children and young adults is just as important as their physical health.
“Good mental health allows them to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
“We want young people to know that there is always someone to talk to, whether it’s a teacher, a friend or doctor. They must never feel ashamed of opening up and I hope that our short film does that.”
Tracy Preece, Co-ordinator of Choose Life NHS Highland said: “For the past couple of years Choose Life, a partnership of Argyll and Bute Council and NHS Highland delivering on the Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy, have been working the guidance.
“I realised that the missing element was young people sharing their thoughts about how they wanted to be supported and how they could support each other.
“The response from both schools when I approached them with the idea of making the films was fantastic and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with young people so willing to learn about mental health and suicide/self-harm and translate that into these powerful and moving films. It has led onto other great projects like delivering suicide awareness training to S5 and S6 pupils. I want to carry on building on this important partnership with all schools in Argyll and Bute.’
To watch Tarbert’s film visit http://www.tigershark.tv/tarbert
To view Oban’s film visit http://www.tigershark.tv/selfharming