Guest Post: Louise Gornall

Thank you to Louise for doing this lovely post on mental health in schools for this year’s mental health awareness day (which I’m turning into a week of blogging because why not?). Go check out her amazing book featuring agoraphobia and OCD, Under Rose-Tainted Skies and definitely follow her on Twitter/Instagram! And if you do struggle at school and are getting no support, try a helpline (online or by phone). They’re super helpful and likely to be much more understanding than your school is being. There’s no shame in that. Now, over to Louise!

First of all I’d like to thank Charlotte for asking me over to have a chat about mental health in schools. It’s a privilege to be here.

Funny thing… just after I’d agreed to write this post, it occurred to me that I haven’t been to school in over a decade. (I’m old, y’all.) 
Things can change a lot in over a decade, so I guess this is a preface, to let you know that I can’t accurately tell you what it’s like to go to school today with a mental illness. I would hope it’s better than it was. See, when I was at school, no one talked about mental health — folks rarely talked about health, period. I’ve suffered on and off with various mental illnesses since I was 11, but I honestly don’t ever remember talking about them at school. Luckily, my Mum is a mental health nurse, so in my house, we don’t shy away from mental health talk. Your mental health should be treated with as much caring and compassion as a broken bone or a ruptured something.
Anyways, I figured seen as I can’t really tell you what mental health is like in schools today, I’d tell you a little bit about how I think mental health should be addressed in schools. 
I made a list! 
1.) I would love to see more open discussion. I think the only way to eradicate the stigma that surrounds certain topics is to talk about those topics, and to tell people it’s okay to talk about them. 
2.) I’d love to see stronger bullying policies in place. Bullying ruins lives. It awoke suicidal tendencies in me at the age of 12. It should be zero tolerance.
3.) Schools should invite people who suffer with mental illness to give talks/run coping workshops. I think experience has value and it’s important for people to see and hear how mental health can be managed by the people who are actually living with it. This would also serve to give mental illness a face that isn’t glamourised by Hollywood horror movies.
4.) More access to services. I don’t know if you guys have a school counsellor or not, but every school should have one. Teachers aren’t always equipped to handle mental illness, but it runs rampant in schools. There should be a professional available to talk to, that everyone has access to because sometimes it’s not mental illness, sometimes life is hard, you’re exhausted and you just need an impartial person to tell you you’re doing okay. 
5.) I’d love to see more promotion of helplines/advice centres/doctors. I didn’t know the number for a suicide helpline until I went to college at 18. EIGHTEEN!! If money restrictions prevent schools from providing help, they should absolutely provide links to other outside sources.
I could go on, but I think 5 is a pretty perfect stopping point. Thank you so much for reading what I have to say, and hey, if you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor/teachers/friends and ask for help. Mental illness is a long and hellish battle –you’re going to need help. But trust me, this thing you’re fighting is not insurmountable. You can learn to manage it. I promise.


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