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Devon’s teens inspire English schools with mental health resources | young people


TThey are busy studying for GCSEs and A-levels, but four teenagers from Devon have also found time to develop lesson plans, newsletters and videos on mental health that are used by schools in across England.

The teens, aged 14 to 16, couldn’t find resources that they believed addressed the kinds of issues they were facing in voices that followed suit and therefore decided to design their own.

They cover topics ranging from the impact of blockages on young people to the importance of a good night’s sleep and how to deal with suicidal thoughts, seeking advice from adult experts but ultimately producing all aspects of the disease. material themselves and making sure it’s their voices. who are heard.

Their group, Spark United Kingdom, began to gain national attention and persuaded actors, sports stars and celebrities such as Jonny Wilkinson, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Steve Backshall to record messages for an online version of an advent calendar in which they talk about their own sanity.

Conor Warren, 15, founder of the group, said the key was that all resources were produced by teens for teens. “We have met a lot of adult-led organizations,” he said. “We don’t know of any other teen-led ones without any adult council telling us what we can and can’t do. “

The group, who met at the Ilfracombe school and held editorial meetings in Conor’s house supported by pizza, are delighted that their materials are being used in dozens of schools not just across the Devon but as far as Bristol, London and Lincolnshire.

They have produced lessons, newsletters, and posters on topics such as self-confidence, self-esteem, social anxiety, and the stress that exams or keeping up with the news can bring. The resources are free. “We just want to do good,” Conor said. “We want to make a difference and help as many people as possible. “

The group takes advice from experts, in particular Jake asks, a charity set up to help tackle issues such as drug and alcohol problems, self-harm and suicide after a young man in North Devon committed suicide. For each content, even the “lightest” as their subject of gratitude, they consult teachers and protection experts.

Bridie Downing, 16, head of content for Spark UK, said she had too often heard of mental health issues being rejected by adults saying: “It’s their hormones.” She said she felt parents were avoiding their children’s mental health issues. “If they see their children in trouble, they often blame themselves. We must not run away from the problems. And teachers are under enormous pressure and have neither the time nor the training to help young people.

Bridie, who is studying for four A levels and wants to be a therapist or work in social services, said she thinks adults are often afraid to talk about issues like suicide. “They think it’s going to give people ideas. “

She said Spark UK wanted to tackle big issues, but in a way that wasn’t scary or intimidating. Teens are already thinking about how to stay relevant as they get older, situational aware they will need to find young people to ensure they retain a voice that their target audience can relate to.

Joseph Carter, 14, responsible for written content, said the goal was to create a comprehensive curriculum for schools across the country. “We want to raise awareness about mental health and encourage young people to talk about their experiences,” he said. “We all have mental health and yet there still seems to be an old-fashioned and unfair stigma surrounding it.”

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