Business volunteers help young people to talk about mental health and wellbeing

Business volunteers help young people to talk about mental health and wellbeing

Published on: 
Friday, 20 April 2018

In Islington, an estimated 3,190 children and young people aged 5-16 are living with a mental health condition. That is around a third higher than the national average (Source: Camden and Islington Public Health). As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting organisations focused on mental health, BIG Alliance is proud to have worked on a number of successful mental wellbeing projects in recent months. February 1st marked Time to Talk Day and the theme this year was ‘Wherever you are, talk about mental health’. To mark this, Islington Council’s Health and Wellbeing Team, who are funded by Public Health, collaborated with BIG Alliance to run a campaign with Key Stage 2, 3, and 4 pupils across Islington to discover what they think a mentally healthy school looks like.

BIG Alliance sourced a total of 17 volunteers from Expedia, Inc., MUFG Bank of Tokyo, and Bolt Burdon Solicitors to facilitate focused discussions in 11 Islington schools. As well as giving time for pupils to discuss how the school environment can support and promote mental wellbeing, the 30 minute sessions provided volunteers the opportunity to improve their understanding of mental wellbeing and the challenges facing young people today.

Lil Fahy, Mental Health Improvement Advisor at Islington Council, spoke highly of what BIG Alliance was able to bring to the campaign:

“It was fantastic to partner with BIG Alliance on this campaign, and to see such enthusiasm from business volunteers who gave their time to volunteer in schools. The schools jumped at the opportunity to have someone come in and discuss with pupils what a mentally healthy school looks like. Linking with BIG Alliance broadened our reach and meant that over 1,000 children and young people in Islington were talking about mental wellbeing.”

Feedback from volunteers was also overwhelmingly positive, with one saying:

“I really enjoyed going into the classroom and talking to the children and hearing their ideas ... their imaginations are incredible. It was great to hear the children talk so openly about their feelings and good ways of dealing with them. It made me aware of more of how important it is to discuss mental health at such a young age."

Another volunteer appreciated the opportunity to step outside of the office and engage with local young people, saying:

"It was great to get out of my normal day-to-day routine and comfort zone and talk to kids about something that is important for all of us. It was fantastic to hear the children’s point of view and to know that I contributed in having them think about mental wellbeing."

The campaign culminated in a competition where pupils were invited to answer the question ‘What does a mentally healthy school look like?’ Responses were submitted in written, spoken or visual form and the judges from across the teams who took part are currently choosing the winners with a celebration event planned in May.

To find out more about BIG Alliance’s work in the community and how to get involved, please email tom.browne@thebigalliance.org.uk