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Schools mental health charter launch

Pupils at Sheffield Girls’ Sixth Form were at the forefront of efforts to improve mental health across Sheffield on Wednesday, attending the Sheffield Telegraph schools mental health charter launch.

The launch is part of their ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign, with hopes to use their ability to reach the wider community for good and encourage young people to be vocal about the important issues affecting them.

The charter consist of guidelines for schools in Sheffield to follow. The Telegraph says this will “create awareness, reduce stigma and highlight some of the brilliant work already being carried out in the city’s schools.” This is particularly important as the increasingly prevalent problem of mental illness is coming to light across the UK - 1 in 10 children now have a diagnosable mental health disorder, meaning it affects roughly 3 children in every classroom, as well as 1 in 5 young adults.

The charter includes: stamping out stigma, including mental health on school curriculums, providing safe environments for children to speak about their issues, alleviating the extreme educational pressures students face, guiding students to helpful local services, and reaching out to parents.

As a collaborative project, the charter was developed and modified by other charities and projects with expertise in the mental health of children and young adults. Papyrus, the only national charity working to prevent the suicide of young people under the age of 35, and Chilypep, empowering vulnerable young people to have their voices heard, joined the Telegraph at the launch to discuss their contributions to the charter.

Sheffield Girls’ has been enthusiastic in supporting the charter and putting it into action school-wide. Mrs Reed, Assistant Head (Pastoral) and Cathy Walker, Director of Sixth Form, were present at the round table in June to discuss the charter and contribute to the final edits being debuted at the launch. Mrs Reed said at the round table, “Showing you’re a talking, listening school is so important. We all know about mental health awareness week, and other projects, but it’s about keeping that going all year round.” The school is focused on fostering an environment where pupils feel able to communicate as the ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign encourages.

Lucy and Megan, Year 13 pupils at Sheffield Girls’ contributed to the launch discussion about the implementation of the charter, “We think the charter is a really good idea. At our school we have so much access to mental health help like the school counsellor but not every school does, especially with the older students who might need it to help them deal with exam pressures and making decisions about their future.

“Reducing the stigma around mental health is important because people can realise that what they’re feeling isn’t normal and can be changed for the better, unlike in the past where it was more of a taboo topic. Hopefully the charter means a wider range of people are involved in mental health rather than just the people directly affected by it, so the warning signs of mental illness and suicide are less likely to be missed.”

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