Mental Health Week 2018

As a society, we are very good at talking the talk about mental health, but we find it much harder to walk the walk. For example, many of us are more than happy to say how terrible it is that young people seem to be having so many mental health issues, but we are less willing to commit to taking meaningful action to improve our collective mental health.

As a society, we are not so good at sustaining our attention on big issues, particularly existential ones. It seems that our 24-hour news cycle has conditioned us to be momentarily shocked and appalled, before the next news grab comes along to replace the previous one; makes us forget our previous worry because of another, seemingly more immediate one. Reality TV is a convenient escape from what sometimes seems like hopeless wave upon wave of insurmountable social problems.

The first step in dealing with mental health issues as a society is to recognise that we have a problem. The second step is to raise awareness of these issues. I think that we have taken these steps. We must now seek to embed healthier practices into the lives of younger generations in order for them to be at their best, as often as possible.

I sometimes think we have our priorities wrong – as our children's lives become more and more busy, and academic demands upon them grow, what message are we actually sending them? And if we are serious about wanting them to be balanced, and curious about the world and able to thrive within it, then we must role-model this for them, as well as insisting that they spend part of every day developing the skills which will enable them to ride life's waves. Perhaps the answer to their ultimate sense of satisfaction lies not in more study, but in exploring mindfulness and developing resilience and expressing gratitude and showing respect.

Scotch is involved in a number of mental health initiatives. Earlier this year, we were a part of "The Big Splash", which was a mental health awareness campaign run by Perth Children's Hospital. Its key messages were:

  • You are not alone
  • It's okay to talk about your feelings and concerns
  • Real help is available

We also engage in RUOK Week. During these times, the emphasis has been on:

  • Being aware of changes in those around you, or in yourself
  • Being willing to ask others how they are – and to listen to their response
  • Encouraging them to seek help – you don't have to solve the problem for them
  • Following up with them – to show you care

With everything we do, we are careful to emphasise that concern for others and working to improve mental health are not things we should do one week a year; these are things which we should be constantly striving to do. Our aim is to return to these key messages periodically during the year to reinforce this.

What can you do to help build your son's mental health?

  • Talk to him to show that it's okay to discuss feelings
  • Keep an eye out for any changes within your child
  • Encourage him to talk to others and to look out for others
  • Explain the importance of screen-free time (if it's good enough for Bill Gates' kids, it's good enough for us) and of face-to-face time with friends
  • Keep him active
  • Get him out into the natural world
  • Help him to find ways to serve his community, be it local, national or global

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing