school

How to talk about mental health

Around the time of World Suicide Prevention Day and other mental health awareness days like it, it is often said that one of the best ways to manage your mental health is to talk to others if you need support. However, how do you exactly have these conversations?

It is not always as easy as just opening your mouth and talking about what’s going on in your head, so here are some suggestions of how to start these conversations, in ways that may be helpful to you.

1.      Are you able to talk to someone who you feel will support you? There are lots of people you can confide in if you feel like you need to talk- parents, friends, extended family, teachers and organisations such as Off the Record, Childline and Samaritans who will listen to you and support you. If you go to school, there’s likely to be a pastoral support worker who you can make an appointment with, or a teacher who can direct you to them. The key is to find someone you trust, who you think will be understanding and supportive, as even if they don’t have all the answers, they’ll be able to help you in finding the right support.

2.      How would you like to start that conversation? Do you want to write everything down and put it in a letter? Or perhaps send a text, an e-mail, or make a phone call? Talking to someone about mental health does not have to be a face-to-face conversation if you don’t want it to be- it’s about how you feel most comfortable communicating. You could send a text/e-mail like:

“Hi (name of trusted person), if you feel able to I would really appreciate having a chat about some things that have been going on with my mental health recently. Would you be able to have a chat about that? “

Or if you are having a face-to-face conversation, for example with a teacher or parent, you could say:

“Do you mind if we have a chat for a few minutes? I’m struggling with my mental health at the moment, and it would mean a lot if we could talk about it.”

We would always hope that someone we trust has the time to talk to us about something like mental health, but sometimes friends in particular may feel nervous about having this conversation, or it might be too difficult for them due to their own personal boundaries and experiences, or a family member might be busy when you say you want to talk- it is important to remember that just because one person can’t talk to you for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean no-one else will talk to you, or that you don’t deserve to have that space to talk about mental health. Perhaps make a list of people you trust to try to talk to, just in case the first person you talk to says they are unavailable.

3.      What would you like that person to know?

-How long have you been struggling with your mental health for?

Are you experiencing anxiety, low mood, stress, hallucinations, problems eating? Or anger, feeling out of control, trapped? It can be hard to think about your exact feelings in the moment, so maybe think about what you’re experiencing beforehand so you know what to say.

-What is your mental health affecting? Is it affecting relationships with partners, family, friends, or affecting your schoolwork, uni-work, job? Are you able to sleep and eat?

-Has something happened that has triggered this for you? You may not feel comfortable discussing this, and that’s okay. It’s just something you could answer if you would like to.

-In particular if you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others, this is important to mention if you are comfortable talking about this. The other person will need to know this if they are going to ensure you are safe- particularly if they are a trusted adult.

Talking about mental health can really help, and hopefully these ideas have given you some suggestions on how you can bring up that conversation with someone in your life. There is always someone who will listen to you, for example:

Childline- 0800 11 11

Switchboard LGBT+- 0300 330 0630

Off the Record- 01225 312481

Samaritans- 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org

KOOTH

Check out this brilliant video ‘Small Talk Saves Lives - Everyday small talk’ by the Samaritans

However, in a crisis, always call 999 or Samaritans so that you can receive support and help quickly. Talking about mental health struggles can be difficult, but it is a very brave thing to do. Asking for help is always a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

Jayme, Student Placement LGBT+ Youth Worker

Are your GCSE results not what you wanted?

Have you got your GCSE results and haven’t got the grades you wanted?

Don’t know what you are going to do next?

Don’t despair, here are some things you can do…

Talk to your school:

If you don’t get your predicted grades, talk to your tutor or other staff at school on the day. They will have plenty of experience of students in your situation and will be able to advise you. This may mean appealing your grades, resitting your exam, choosing a different sixth form or A level, or something else.

Consider moving schools for 6th form:

Different Schools offer different A level courses – if you don’t get the GCSE grades you need to do your chosen A levels at your current school, why not contact other schools nearby or consider doing different A levels? Some schools will allow you to retake your GCSEs so that you can try again to get the grades you want.

Investigate FE College:

There are a number of FE colleges nearby - in Bath, Midsomer Norton, Bristol, Trowbridge and Lackham College near Chippenham.  They provide a huge range of courses and apprenticeships. Look at their web sites to see the courses they have on offer. If you haven’t got the entry requirements for the course you like, don’t despair. Some course leaders will be flexible and sometimes you can retake some GCSE exams at college whilst also joining another course part time.

Consider a traineeship or Apprenticeship:

If you have a good idea of what job you’d like to do, then an apprenticeship or traineeship might be best for you. Contact local employers, recruitment agencies and job centres. You can also search for apprenticeships and traineeships through the government website @ www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship or https://www.gov.uk/find-traineeship

Contact local support services:

Youth Connect are a local service providing support for those who may need help getting into training, education or employment. This is provided by qualified engagement workers who can help with information about next steps to colleges, other training providers, apprenticeships and jobs. They are running drop in sessions at various locations around Banes in August, September and October

For more information call 01225 396980 or email YouthConnect_SupportServices@bathnes.gov.uk 

Daystop at the YMCA also nave a weekly job club on Wednesday mornings from 10-12. Find more information at https://ymcabathgroup.org.uk/about/what-we-do/daystop/

The Princes Trust offer careers advice, courses, help getting a job or starting your own business. Contact them at https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/

You can look for apprenticeships through the government website here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship

Good to know: there is a 16-19 Bursory Fund which you can use to pay for course related expenses such as equipment, books and transport. Find out more @ https://www.gov.uk/1619-bursary-fund

If you have an Education, Health and Care plan you are entitled to support from an independent advocate. Contact clarejones@offtherecord-banes.uk or text 07872992881 for more information

If you are struggling to cope and need to talk, please contact us and access our listening support or counselling services. You can fill out a Referral Form here

Missing out on the GCSE grades you wanted isn’t the end of the road.  It is the beginning of a new route or a minor diversion in the pathway to your future!

Jane, SEND Advocate

OTR's Wellbeing Hub

We are over the moon to announce we will be running Midsomer Norton’s Youth Club! Further expanding our services in Midsomer Norton, to create OTR’s new Wellbeing Hub.

Expanding on our Listening Support, Counselling and LGBT+ Rural SPACE Youth Group in Midsomer Norton, we felt running Norton’s Youth Club was the perfect opportunity for us to further meet young people’s needs within the community.

Young people need a local service where they socialise, feel connected and receive support if required.

The space will be a safe, relaxed environment where young people can sit and chat to staff, friends and peers, socialise, have fun as well as getting involved in themed sessions. There will be opportunities to develop new skills i.e. cook, discuss issues as well as have guest speakers visit.

OTR’s Wellbeing Hub will include;

LGBT+ Rural SPACE Youth Group fortnightly Mondays (for ages 13-21) 6pm-8pm

Listening Support and Counselling every Tuesday and Wednesday (for ages 10-25) 3pm-7pm

Norton Youth Club (NYC) every Thursday (for ages 11-18) 6:30pm-8:30pm

Keep an eye on our website and social media for updates on when the Norton Youth Club is up and running!


If you’d like to support our services such as our Wellbeing Hub, join us at our 25th Anniversary Ball.


We are looking for young people to help us redecorate and refurbish the Youth Club! If you’d like to help us get in contact below:

Name *
Name

Fitting in

It’s a universal fact that we all want to be liked. Human are animals- we like to have our packs, the people who back us up and stick with us when things get tough. But finding that pack can be difficult, and sometimes we feel that all we want to do is fit in. It’s not wrong to not want to stick out in a crowd (it’s human nature after all), but it does become a problem if you’re changing yourself in order to be liked by others.

Fitting in is not about getting other people to like you no matter what the cost- it’s about finding the people who accept you for who you are, and fitting comfortably with them, with your natural differences complimenting each other and bringing out the best in everyone. Fitting in is not about being the same, it’s about celebrating difference, and not shaming anyone or expecting anyone to change so that they fit in.

Wanting to fit in usually comes from starting somewhere new or feeling as though you need other people to validate who you are in order for you to be happy and accept yourself. But here’s the thing- you don’t need other people’s approval to be happy. You don’t need to fit in with others in order to like yourself. It’s a lot lonelier to be around people who don’t love you for exactly who you are than it is to be around no-one at all. Whether you fit in or not is irrelevant to how happy you can be- people who seem to fit in perfectly with those around them are not necessarily happy, and the people who seem to not fit in at all aren’t necessarily unhappy. Whatever the situation is, it’s not a case of you needing to change yourself in order to fit in with other people- it’s a case of finding the people who make you feel as though you don’t even have to fit in at all.

Feeling as though you don’t fit in is difficult, and it can feel lonely, but not fitting in is never your fault. It is never that there is a problem with you, or that you need to change, or that you are ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ for people. The people who you are trying to fit in with are simply not the right fit for you. You shouldn’t have to fit yourself into someone else’s predetermined mould of what is acceptable, and if you feel like you’re doing that, take a step back and ask yourself some questions.

1.       Are you happy?

2.       Are your wants and needs being met?

3.       Do you find yourself doing things you don’t want to do?

4.       Are you healthy and participating in healthy behaviours?

Trying to fit in can make you feel as though you don’t know the real you anymore, especially if you’ve been trying to fit in for a long time. Think about who are you when you’re by yourself, when you’re playing with your pets, or whoever you are when you’re not trying to make other people happy. Whoever that person is, they deserve to be around people who love and celebrate them for who they are- people who don’t have a mould already sculpted for you to try and shape yourself into. People who are the right fit for you will gently shape you into being the best possible version of yourself, and that’s what good friends do naturally, without even trying.

Whatever situation you are in, Off the Record is here to provide listening support and counselling services to young people in BANES who need it. You can refer yourself to these services here.

Jayme, Student Placement LGBT+ Youth Worker

 

Starting somewhere new

Hi everyone,

Summer is officially upon us, and I hope you’re all enjoying the holiday- but I’m sure many of you also have a slightly nervous pit in your stomach that comes from starting somewhere new, whether that’s at a new job (like me!), a new school or college, or you’re going off to university. Even just changing year group can be stressful, so don’t feel like your worries aren’t justified. Change is scary for everyone, regardless of what that change is.

Unfortunately, change is pretty much guaranteed, so it pays to try to find a relationship with it that isn’t pure fear. It’s completely natural to feel apprehension towards a change in your life, whether that’s a change in routine, or a change in where you live and what you’re doing. Here are some of my tips for dealing with change, from someone who knows what change can feel like- a scary monster grabbing you by your feet and dragging you into the unknown.

1.       Everyone around you has experienced a big change of some kind, so it’s important to have people around you who can be a listening ear for you if you have any worries, be that friends or family, or even just the cat that you see around your house from time to time. If your worries do overwhelm you though, Off the Record can provide listening and counselling services which you can either refer yourself to online, or you can call them on 01225 312481.

2.       Try and pinpoint what you are specifically worried about. What is it about moving to a new school that scares you? The people? The location you don’t know very well? Not having understanding teachers? From this, figure out what you can practically do about each worry that might make you feel better. Perhaps get in touch with people you know that are going through the same thing, or going to the same place as you, or set up 1-to-1s with teachers so they understand your worries and may be able to help you.  This is essentially the Worry Tree method. This is when you identify a worry, try to find a practical way to get rid of that worry, and then essentially ‘box it up’ in your head once you’ve done all you can to alleviate it. But it is a skill to learn, so don’t panic if this doesn’t work for you. Just give it a go and be proud of yourself for giving it a go.

3.       Think about the last time you were worried about a big change, and how what you were worried about is now the new normal. Nothing is permanent, in the best possible way. So what happens if you don’t like university? You have options- you can change your degree, you can switch universities or you can drop out. If you don’t like your new house? Remember that it is unlikely you will live there forever. The trick is to not fight against change but to fight with it so that you can be as happy as you can so that the change can work out in your favour.

4.       Whatever you’re doing, it can take a while to settle in. I hated my first few months at sixth form, and then it turned out to be some of the best times of my life. The bottom line is that change is scary, regardless of how big or small, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Change is neither inherently good or bad, but it does give us the opportunity to grow as a person and develop some new skills. Even if the change doesn’t work out- what will you learn from it? Think about when things have changed in the past- are you grateful for the change in hindsight? Do you regret it? Even if you do, remember that however you feel is okay- trying to stop yourself from feeling a certain emotion is guaranteed to only make you feel it more intensely. Whether you feel angry, frustrated, happy, relieved or excited- all of those things are normal and natural and you don’t have to feel guilty for feeling them.

Whatever you do, I hope it works out for you. Be patient and kind with yourself, because both your mind and body will need a lot of rest in order to adjust to the change. And remember that if you do want to talk to someone about what you’re dealing with, Off the Record are here to support you.

Written by Jayme Sims, Student Placement LGBT+ Youth Worker

Perry's Journey at OTR

Hello! This is a little blog about myself and my journey through Off the Record (OTR).

I’d like to start off by saying a little about myself and my story leading up to my role. I will walk you through how I found out about OTR and what I gained from them as a young person and as a member of staff.

The beginning, I first found out about OTR through their youth group SPACE, which I found online. Let’s go on a quick flash back to 2013 (don’t worry I have some photos).

perry.jpg

So, in 2013 I attend SPACE for the first time, this was a challenging time for me as I recently came out as gay and was experiencing a tough time at school because of it. At SPACE I found my tribe and was able to express myself and BE myself without judgement. So, a few years went by as a regular member of SPACE. During that time, I was given countless opportunities & empowerment. Some of them was to help interview and take an active role in shaping Off the Record. So, as you can imagine these opportunities are what guided me to applying for the apprenticeship here at OTR. After helping OTR with many things I naturally grew an interest in helping other young people and giving them the support and empowerment, I was given as a young person from OTR.

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During my time as a young person attending SPACE, I got involved in helping Bath Pride, which was a great experience and learning opportunity. Being able to attend and support in Bath Pride was very self-liberating, helping and attending Pride in my hometown, a place that boxed me in and stripped me of my individuality and made me feel less than my peers. Seeing how Pride here in Bath helped me and other LGBT+ people is amazing and something I will always be thankful for.

Now we have covered a little bit about myself and my life before my role here at OTR, let’s talk about my apprenticeship!  So, first things first were the interviews, although scary It was exciting, it was the first step in my career. Using the skills, I had learnt while helping to interview other staff when I was a young person paid off. Once passing phase one of the interview process, I had to prepare and deliver an activity to a group of young people which was terrifying, I found this part of the interviewing process the hardest. I created and delivered an activity on Trans inclusion which in my opinion is something that isn’t spoken about as much as it should be, the young people agreed, and I passed.

Alongside my role I attend college where I studied all year and obtained my youthwork qualification, during these lessons I learnt some “cool” things about many different subjects. That I used practically in my youth groups.

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I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing young people and professionals, learning from both young people and staff alike. I have visited local schools and supported young people in many aspects of their lives.

From attending school/college open days to delivering listening support, are just some of the great things I have accomplished here as a LGBT+ Youth worker and supporting young people going through the same as me and those who just needed someone to listen.

I have had an amazing time working alongside my colleagues here at OTR and have learnt many new things. Since starting my apprenticeship, I was met with endless support and encouragement from not only my team but from OTR as a whole. It has been a pleasure working for Off the Record and being a role model for the young people of today.

So, that’s that, this is how I learnt grew & changed into the man I am today. Now I am off to London to further my career as a Health & wellbeing support worker.

Thank you for reading my story, I hope that if there is anything you can personally take from my journey it’s that anything is achievable and be your most authentic self no matter what life throws at you, you will continue to grow, learn and overcome even life’s most darkest of days.

Thank you, Perry

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Dealing with exam stress

Summer is a wonderful time to relax, hang out with friends and soak up the sun. But unfortunately, before this time can arrive, so many young people have to take dreaded exams- myself included! As someone who has been through too many exams and deadlines to count, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks along the way that may help you if you are also heading into exam season.

 

1.      Figure out what techniques work out for you. Some people like mind maps. Some like lists. You can rephrase lesson notes, summarise paragraphs in revision guides, or even watch YouTube videos online about what you’re studying. It may be helpful to get some sticky notes or note cards and write down key words and definitions. Just writing them out will help you remember, or you can bring them with you in your bag in case you have a spare 5 minutes to go over them! A virtual alternative to this is Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/en-gb), where you can make flash cards, quizzes and even games that can help you study.

 

2.      How much time do you need? Some people like to start revision months before the exams, and others the night before. I personally don’t recommend leaving things to the last minute, but for some people it works. If you find that the added pressure of a time limit helps you work more effectively, then do whatever works for you! Likewise, if you need to take more time off around exam time to mentally prepare yourself, that’s okay too.

 

3.      Study with friends. You can learn from each other- why not get together and have study sessions? It’s a good excuse to bring some snacks, sit down with some friends and learn something too. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses- perhaps your friend understands something you don’t, and you can help them with something they’re struggling with, helping you to understand it better too. Revision should never be isolating- so many other people are in the same boat, so support each other!

 

4.      How are you going to structure your revision? A subject a day? 3 subjects for a few hours a day? You can create a timetable that works for you, either on paper or online, for example on Get Revising (https://getrevising.co.uk/planner) Perhaps you want to schedule tasks by hours, or by making yourself a to-do list and telling yourself you have to have that list completed by the end of the day. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to everyone around you. Not everyone studies the same way, and there isn’t really a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way to study- there’s only what does work for you and what doesn’t. If you’re someone who is easily distracted, you can try the ‘Forest’ app that grows virtual trees as you study (https://www.forestapp.cc) - if you stop studying to check social media, the trees stop growing. 

 

5.      Where do you like to study? You don’t have to be the stereotypical student that hunches over a desk for hours on end. Some people find it helps to be in complete silence, undistracted and in somewhere like a library or bedroom, but others prefer to be out and about. If the weather’s nice, why not go for a walk and sit in a park? A coffee shop? Or even a different room in your house. Figuring out how you study best is just as important to learn as your actual content material, so give yourself time and space to trial different methods and techniques.

 

6.      Look after yourself. This is the most important reminder of all. You are not your grades, and they shouldn’t define who you are. Yes, they are important, but failing is never the end of the world. Everyone’s best is different, and trying your best does not mean pushing yourself to breaking point. It is so important to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and take time out to relax. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, doing something you enjoy can really help put things into perspective. When you’ve got your head down studying, it can be hard to remember that there’s a whole world out there for you to enjoy and explore. Try your absolute best, but it’s okay if things don’t go according to plan.

 

Finally, good luck! If you do find yourself struggling, remember that Off the Record is here to help, as are your teachers and student support services. You’re never alone, and never be afraid to ask for help. Your mental health is not worth sacrificing for your grades, and whatever happens, you will be okay. 

Jayme :)

Blog written by Jayme Sims

Banter or Bullying Event

OTR took part in the Banter or Bullying Event held at the University of Bath alongside SARI and Black Families.

Prior to the event, we heard from over 1700 young people living or studying in BANES from our survey entitled “Are you being bullied for who you are - Young people’s experiences of hate.” We were blown away by the response rate of the survey, and what young people have experienced.

The day was separated with many different workshops for both school students and staff. OTR held a workshop based around online bullying and harassment. We had 5 different activities for the young people all of which were used to discuss online discrimination and hate crime; we had an activity using Meme’s, a ‘Dark Web’, Support Cloud, Online Activism activity as well as a Runway For Change. The purpose of these activities was to raise and tackle the issues around online discrimination, hate crime and bullying as well as sharing with young people where they can go should they ever experience this.

We also participated in a ‘speed dating’ type of activity which allowed us, and other services to share with young people what we do, and how they can access our support as well as allowing them to ask any questions they had.

The event closed with a Q&A session with Nikesh Shukla hosted by our very own Youth Forum member and DMYP Renee Weber. Renee and the young people did a fantastic job of asking Nikesh a range of questions from his experience of racism, his childhood and how he uses his position as an author to discuss race and immigration within the UK.

This event allowed us to promote Bath and North East Somerset as an area that challenges discrimination and hate and supports the people that experience this type of behaviour.

Here’s to working and standing together to make change!

“Abuse and hate crime is part of a viscous circle and we need to break it” - Alex Raikes, Strategic Director for SARI


Photo’s from the day

The ever new world of dyslexia - Spoken word poem

My dyslexia is like  

An iceberg 

Because I cannot 

Decipher it all 

Every particle is 

Fused and cannot be 

Separated from 

Its neighbour 

From the parts of 

Me that’s something else 

From a part of me that’s taken 

What is it that joins to 

Asperses, dyspraxia, ADHD  

And shares me and them 

What takes me to  

Other lands and spaces shared 

With numbers, emotions,  

Words, light, colours, 

Shoaled fish deep below the ice 

Joined together forming  

Something always new 

Pulled in the current together 

Take me to the unseen 

To new sirens  

Giving me new eyes. 

- Written by young person, Maisie