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Reflection: Mental Health

Posted: 13th May 2024

I’m sorry to start on a low, but let me begin with some statistics that I found while researching Mental Health Awareness Week.  Every year, 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental health problem, and the number of young people struggling with mental health has doubled since 2017.  Suicide is now the biggest killer of men under the age of 50.  Now just think about that for a second – these are staggering numbers.  To think that out of every 4 of your friends, on average, one of them may be fighting a mental battle, every day, is unsettling, especially seeing as they often won’t feel able to tell anyone.

Now, the importance of a healthy mind cannot be underestimated.  Our mental health affects pretty much every part of our lives: our relationships with others, our studies, and even our physical health.  It’s with our mind that we understand, interpret and respond to the world around us, so it’s crucial that we look after it.  But you guys know all this.  Thanks to the growing awareness of this issue, I’m sure you’re conscious of the different ways to improve and maintain mental health, so I won’t give you a lesson on this.

However, what I believe is of paramount importance is the role of friends and the wider community in battling these issues.  The stats that I read may sound bleak, but there is lots we as peers can do to contribute, whether it’s our friends who are struggling, or family, or even people we don’t know so well.  Firstly, as the Headmaster stresses at the start of every year, kindness is so key.  We often won’t know what’s going on in the lives of others or the emotional challenges they have to deal with in secret, and because mental health struggles are so common, creating an atmosphere of support and compassion makes such a huge impact on so many people.  And it doesn’t take too much: in the words of Jackie Chan, “Sometimes it only takes one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life”.  As well as this, such acts can make a big difference on our own mental health, as it’s proven to boost serotonin and dopamine when we help others.

Finally, I encourage you to keep checking in with your friends; be a safe space for them, someone who they feel comfortable to be honest with, because suffering in silence is how the situation worsens.  Let’s be friends who are proactive in looking out for each other, showing care, and asking those questions that enable others to open up.  Let’s be friends who notice when something’s wrong and who listen to understand.  Everyone loves a good laugh and a bit of joke, but let’s be guys who aren’t scared to get to the real stuff, because I truly believe that real friends, as well as enjoying the good times, support each other when things get tough.

Harry Simmons
Senior Prefect

Categories: Reflection Senior News