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Pat McDowell

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Mental Health


I am delivering a short session (40 minutes) to a group of teenagers on how to look after their mental health and to give them tips on what to do when feeling down. This will be a group of about 100. Does anyone know of any approaches that might suit such a large group of teenagers or of an activity I could use.

3 Responses

  1. A tough nut to crack

    Wow!  That’s one hell of a brief.  It really does depend on their backgrounds; do you know anything about these teens?  Basically, teens who come from deprived and/or impoverished areas or backgrounds will have different awareness and experience of mental health issues.  I am a youth mentor and I communicate differently with my mentee about issues surrounding their mental health awareness than I do with say my 13-year-old niece.  

    The key for me is to stamp out prejudice, so to that end I would include a series of role plays, pre-set by you, whereby you ask small teams to act out certain scenarios.  For example, get 3 or 4 of them together, ask them each in turn to play ‘the victim’ and ask the others to tease and taunt ‘the victim’.  There is no experience equal to the real thing, but this might give them some insight into how it feels to be singled out and abused for being different.  You might find the ‘drama triangle’ helpful.

    This really is a tricky one to handle; the breadth of issues covered by the blanket term ‘mental health’ is wide and varied.  

    I would advise you to be very sensitive about what and how you say things, in such a large sample group I would bet my bank balance some of the kids will be dealing with mental health issues in their own families and homes.  Watch out for this, sure signs are: unwillingness to participate, reacting with emotion to what you are saying (this can be either angrily, emotionally or humorously – either end of the spectrum and anywhere in between), demonstrating accurate and detailed knowledge of what you are covering.

    Phew!  I went on a bit there, sorry about that.  I hope it is of some use and I look forward to seeing other people’s replies too.

  2. mental well being training

    You may need to change some of the terminology in this exercise to suit your audience, but you could introduce them to the idea of an "emotional equibrium"   The idea that events in our life affect our mood. Some events make us more optomistic, cheerful, content etc. they elevate our mood, other events, make us less confident, pessimistic , uncertain and tend to lower our mood . Often there is a balance between these two we have an emotional equilibrium ,and we can just get on with our life.

     Stage 2 is getting people to identify the events that pull them one way or the other. You can either divide them into groups and hand out envelopes with a number of cards that have suggestions – broke up with boyfriend, didn’t get invited to friends party , bad mark for  schooolwork likely to lower mood  alternatively , saved some money this week, planned my summer holiday, lost weight,  etc. likely to enhance mood .

     You could perhaps get people to write some of their own and then get groups to choose their top 3 things that get them down, 3 things that cheer them up   

    The main purpose however is to suggest that how we feel about things and what determines our mood is mostly linked to what is going on in our life at that time and we have some capacity to change that through taking action.

    I have used a version of this in trainig staff who work in mental health settings and it usuallyworks quite well.

    Get in touch if you want more detail

    Good Luck  Derek Adams   tel 0117 963 1446



  3. Relaxation Exercises
    In working with young people, I found virtually all of them interested in – and open to – learning relaxation exercises (e.g. deep breathing techniques). Everyone can relate to being stressed, so you’re not calling anyone dysfunctional.

    If you choose the (excellent) suggestion about introducing the idea of emotional equilibrium, you may want to put up a visual scale (a see saw or a spectrum?) and have them rate how far one way or the other they think a specific event might push them. This way you are helping them not just to learn the idea of balance but also to put things in perspective, something we could all use more of.


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