Independent schools embrace Mental Health Awareness Week

Independent schools have planned a range of nature-themed activities for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, including nature trails, outdoor yoga and digital detox days

Independent schools across the UK are embracing Mental Health Awareness Week (10–16 May) with a range of activities based on the event’s theme of nature.

The Mental Health Foundation found that 70% of UK adults said being close to nature improves their mood. They also found that during the pandemic, going for walks was one of our top coping strategies, with 45% citing green spaces as vital to their mental health.

At Burgess Hill Girls, assistant head pastoral and boarding, Nikki Donson, said: “As so many young people’s mental, emotional health and resilience has been affected over the past year, it is vital for Burgess Hill Girls as a school to recognise Mental Health Awareness Week.

“We know that young people do better in all aspects of life if they are happy and healthy, so it is a no-brainer to do everything we can to promote good mental health.”

We know that young people do better in all aspects of life if they are happy and healthy, so it is a no-brainer to do everything we can to promote good mental health – Nikki Donson, Burgess Hill Girls

Burgess Hill Girls has different nature-themed activities planned for each year group, including outside yoga, sensory walks, smoothie-making, building bird feeders and the opportunity to meet a hedgehog with St Francis Animal Welfare Hedgehog Rescue Centre for nursery children.

Pupils in the pre-prep and prep school will be building bug hotels, reading outside, taking part in mindful tai chi, nature trails and nature sketching. School nurse Liz Hall will explore how to manage worries with pupils.

In the senior school and sixth form, pupils will explore nature themed therapies for common mental health conditions, enjoy outside Samba band performances and outside Shakespeare readings. Sixth form students are leading a digital detox day on 12 May, where they will leave their phones at home for the day.

Pupils will also hear from visiting speakers including nutritionist Karen Newby, sexual health expert Robbie Currie, yoga and mindfulness teacher Emily Gilchrist, the Schools Consent Project, and Ruth Summers, who will give students a chance to experience a sound bath.

In addition, staff can sign up to different exercise and meditation sessions, as well as a ‘secret buddy’ programme which enables them to give and receive secret supportive messages and gifts. A local church has offered a quiet space for staff to visit at lunch time for reflection and meditation.

A five-minute mindfulness film created by Burgess Hill Girls


Other independent schools have been showcasing their plans for the week on social media, with The Downs Preparatory School’s year one’s starting Monday morning with a one-mile walk.

St Bees School teachers will be discussing different mental health conditions with pupils in order to help end the stigma that surrounds talking about mental health.

And at QEH Bristol, pupils are enjoying a weekly gardening club, planting and tending to shrubs, flowers and vegetables with their peers.

You might also like: Independent Schools’ Wellbeing conference returns in May

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