A Bristol charity that works with people with mental health needs has called on schools extends mental health education to help young people understand its importance to wellbeing.
Milestones Trust, which has 15 mental health care homes in Bristol, believes that embedding the importance of good mental health to children at a young age is crucial in helping identify and overcome problems early.
The call for change comes ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place from Monday May 16 to Sunday May 22 and this year has a relationships theme. The week aims to throw a spotlight on the importance of relationships in maintaining good mental health.
Beth Hendry, assistant director of mental health at Milestones Trust, said: “Mental health problems are a growing public health concern in the UK and it’s estimated that one in four people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
“We know from many years of experience that identifying issues early on is essential. People often say that if they had received support earlier on in life, it may have helped them deal better with long term conditions.
“Equipping young people with information to help identify problems and offering them access to support not only allows people to take responsibility for their own mental health but also encourages a more empathetic response to others who may be suffering.
“Schools have an important role to play in this education process and including it in the curriculum is one way of ensuring this topic is discussed openly and without prejudice.”
Milestones Trust is at the forefront of mental health recovery and works with people of all ages with mental health needs across Bristol in dedicated care homes, education and community centres and in smaller residential settings. Their approach is to encourage patients to step out of the ‘sick role’ and start to become autonomous as individuals with the capacity to come through a period of mental distress.
“The focus is on self-esteem, identity and self-determination,” says Beth.
“Gone are the days of care being centred on institutions. The focus now is on equipping people wherever possible with the skills that enable them to participate in a full life, being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them just as the majority of people do in society.”
Milestones Trust runs a number of programmes including sessions on problem solving, independent thinking and spiritual health. The charity has a particular strength in improving wellbeing through art. Experience shows that creativity and imagination has a positive impact on mental health as well as offering an avenue for people to get involved in their communities through, for example, choirs and drama groups.
Milestones Trust will be creating a Friendship Wall at Bristol’s harbourside market on Saturday May 21 in recognition of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week relationships theme. The charity will be inviting members of the public to write about what friendship means to them on a wall which will be added to create a piece of art at the end of the day.
Beth added: “Mental health issues can be very isolating and this initiative is designed to encourage people to think about how important friendships are to our sense of wellbeing and explore what connections and friendships are built on. We would encourage anyone to come along and take part in this fun and thought provoking project.”