10 October 2019

Increasing access, reducing stigma and raising awareness of mental health

On World Mental Health Day, School Counsellor Mrs Laura Herman discusses how John Lyon uses both professionals and peers to help guide all boys through difficult times.

“What brings you here today?”, I recently asked a Sixth Form student who had come to see me for the first time.

“Well my friend came and said it helped, so I thought I would try”, was his reply.

Increasing access, reducing stigma and raising awareness of mental health and the counselling provision here at John Lyon is a crucial part of what I seek to achieve in my role as Counsellor, and with this in mind I was delighted to begin working more closely with our A-Level students through PSCHE (Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education) sessions.

These sessions provide a great opportunity to educate and develop self-awareness in our students so they are better able to care not only for themselves but for each other, both now and as they move towards greater independence at university and the workplace.

During the last John Lyon Enrichment Week, I shared the documentary, A Royal Team Talk: Tackling Mental Health, with our Lower Sixth boys. This BBC programme included HRH The Duke of Cambridge, England men’s Football manager Gareth Southgate and current and former Premier League players Danny Rose, Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry and Jermaine Jenas. They all talked frankly about their own struggles including coping with injury, bereavement and that penalty. It was clear our boys were very engaged and interested to know that these high profile men of great privilege and success had also faced difficulties that required some help and support at times.

A reflective and thoughtful discussion followed and some conclusions were drawn: emotional distress is not a mental illness and usually a healthy response to something troubling.  Frequently, time heals with the help of friends and family but at other times we need additional help. I hope that John Lyon boys are a little more aware of when that might be and where they can access it.

Later that afternoon, a boy arrived at my door. “Have you got a minute?”, he asked…

As well as help and guidance from a professional counsellor, John Lyon boys are also encouraged to help each other. This is seen especially in our Peer Mentor programme, which gives Sixth Form students the opportunity to use their experience and wisdom to help guide younger boys.

Peer Mentors at John Lyon offer an additional strand of care within the pastoral system, benefiting not just the pupil being mentored but also the students offering their help and advice.

Our mentors first undergo a rigorous training programme that includes fundamental counselling and listening skills, confidentiality, boundary setting, safeguarding and developing self-awareness. They are also regular participants at School clubs and societies, where they interact and engage with younger pupils, acting as role model, kindly older brother, confidante and friend.

Our 2019-2020 Peer Mentors have now been trained and are putting their knowledge and skills into action. When I emailed one student, Shaurya Garkhel, about his experience as a mentor, he replied:

“I wanted to become a Peer Mentor because I believe it gives me the important skill of communication and the ability to interact with people who aren’t of my age, which is what you would experience beyond school and in the workplace. The training we had was extremely useful as it taught me about how things like my body language and the tone of my voice as a Mentor can have a huge impact on the person I am talking to. I have already had the opportunity to use my training, helping a new John Lyon boy feel comfortable in telling me the issues he was having, and helping him adapt to what is a brand new school environment for him.”

Mental health and wellbeing is central to the success of any community and John Lyon’s Peer Mentors play a significant role in contributing to the School’s ethos of showing compassion, care and respect for each other.

Mrs Laura Herman is available for all John Lyon boys.
She can be contacted, in confidence, at:
[email protected]
020 8515 9421