May 19, 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness is embedded into life at Leighton Park. This week, as we nationally focused on how to manage psychological and emotional wellbeing in ourselves and others, a curated programme of activities prompted students and staff on the Park, to reflect on this fundamental topic.

To begin Mental Health Awareness Week on Monday 10th May, Year 7 through to Upper Sixth were reminded ‘You Matter’ as specially commissioned green pencils were distributed. But it was Fryer that pulled out all the stops to represent the international symbol for Mental Health Awareness, as they snapped an aerial photograph of themselves proudly parading the green ribbon.

On Wednesday, we virtually met Anthony Andrews, a Holistic Lifestyle and Rugby Coach. His mindfulness session was well received by students who then had the opportunity to explore the discipline in further depth on Friday as Anthony presented a Collect, live from Main Hall.

After suffering a career changing knee injury as a player for London Scottish, Anthony spoke about how mindfulness had helped him overcome difficulties in his own rugby career, “Being present allows you to step out of that worry mode.” he highlighted to the room. Together, students watching remotely and Year 11 as a live audience, practiced ‘.b’, focusing on their breath and awareness of the body.

Having undergone their Mentoring and Safeguarding training in the past fortnight, Peer Mentors in the Lower Sixth were eager to be allocated to their different year groups. Lauren remarked “My training involved learning about how to deal with different scenarios to help people who are worried or troubled about something. Being a good peer mentor to me means listening to someone and putting yourself in their situation to best give them advice and help them go forward.”

The Tree of Appreciation also made a welcomed return; its colourful card leaves and handmade sign (thank you DT!) now humbly stand next to the cedar tree on the edge of the Cricket Field.

Thursday’s PSHE session was dedicated to watching ‘How are You?’, a theatre performance exploring issues of resilience and wellbeing. Sally Saunders, Head of Careers and Assistant Head of Sixth Form, commented “Given the impact of the pandemic over the past year and a bit, the mental wellbeing of everyone on the Park has never been more important. The theatre performance which was specially produced for schools, allowed students to explore the importance of mental health and seeking support if necessary, in an accessible fashion”.

Staff were not forgotten as they too were treated to a week of wellbeing; from being able to book a massage with LP Sports Coach and Soft Tissue Therapist, Alice Ledson, to enjoying cornetto’s in the courtyard from ice cream man, Jez Belas, to English Teacher, Merion Taynton, showing Head of DT, Mark Smith, how to relax with the knitting needles during a special lunchtime ‘Knit and Natter’ session.

In its third week, Run in the Sun, a whole-school initiative championing physical and mental health, saw a shuffle in Senior House positions, “Big news for Field who jump from sixth to fourth, leap frogging School and Reckitt with some cheeky teamwork,” commented Jez, Director of Sport, PE and Wellness. “The staff are starting to pull away in the newly named ‘Run in the Rain’!”

The money raised from this feel good challenge will be donated to YoungMinds, a charity advocated by the School for its vision, ‘A world where no young person feels alone with their mental health.’ Also carrying out fantastic work to support mental health charity, Mind, has been Field House who were recently able to load up a full van to deliver their donations to the cause.

In the spirit of this year’s Mental Health Awareness nature theme, Helen Taylor, Head of Sixth Form and Biology Teacher, led her Upper Sixth International Baccalaureate class on an ecology walk through the beautiful, neighbouring University of Reading campus. The group explored numerous habitats in the Harris Gardens and around Whiteknights Lake, before enjoying an ice cream together.

Also, keen to appreciate time spent with friends in the great outdoors, Year 8 students Livi, Jemima, Cali, Maja, Jessy, Ellla and Niamh challenged themselves to a series of half marathon walks over the span of a month. The grand finale, which took place during Mental Health Awareness week, saw the group walk from Maidenhead to Marlow and back and raise a phenomenal £452 for YoungMinds.

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