22/11/13 What’s the right age for starting to talk about this kind of malarkey?

May feels a long way off – that was when I took some folk from Corby and the environs on a little ramble around the town whilst talking about the sacred walk and all things mental healthy.

I’d been delighted to have a couple of girls along in the entourage – aged around 12 – who showed great enthusiasm for what we were trying to achieve.

So, it was with great excitement I found myself driving towards Sibford School in North Oxfordshire to run a session where it was my hope that I’d get a gathering (any offers of a collective noun for this group of folk happily accepted) of 70 or so sixth formers to think about mental ill health.

This had been instigated by a veteran walk a miler, the lovely Ginette Wheeldon, who works at the school.

Tempting though it was to talk about my deeds of derring do, I’d made the decision not to ramble about the ramble, but to get folk talking about their reflections on mental health…

Johanna, the documentary maker, had come across from Berlin to share in this great opportunity…

We were greeted like old friends by Jez, a sixth form tutor who’d ironed out the finer points of not just where and when but when and how too…

I wandered into the studio where it was all happening – there were fragments of the pending Christmas play, Oliver, on some tables and a great big stage at the front…

Ooh, it was tempting…

‘Who will buy…?’

Some of the students were putting the seats out…smiling expectantly as I pulled Hubert in with Darth II on my back…

As I watched the rest of the students spill in I had a vague reflection on my earlier chats with Ella – had I timed the talk? Had I what?

I had an hour – surely that would be plenty?

I was keen to get folk talking and thinking…

I talked a bit about the walk and myself…

Then I got them to break up into 8 groups to discuss one of each of the following questions with with a bunch of prompting questionlets to stimulate conversation – and then we discussed them in the wider group…

In short – they were fabulous – reflective – sensitive and thoughtful.

The questions?

What do you think?

1 – What do you call someone with a mental health problem?

2- What do you know about mental ill health?

3- What do you do when you suspect that you or someone you know has a mental health problem?

4- What might stop people from talking about their mental health?

5- What’s important to you in your life?

They dived in and the open discussion was delicious.

I vaguely thought about time and how I’d left the tales of derring do at the end…

As we got to the last groups, Jez told me we had 5 minutes…yeah right…more talking…

The last group finished and Jez said, ‘You’re finished,’

‘I’m finished?’ I said – shocked and stunned – even though everyone around me had warned me about timing…

‘Yes,’ he smiled, thanking me for coming and clapping…

They had to get on the school buses…

Curses!!!

I smiled as folk clapped and shook my hand as I handed out my none-business cards.

It had all been lovely – I wanted more though.

In the post match chat Jez told me he thought this session would easily fill an afternoon – we talked about my return to finish off…

It would be great to hear what their thoughts on mental health were after some time – and then I could tell them a bit about the walk and how absolutely fabulous the people of the UK are…

Jez told me he’d spoken to his wife who worked at another school – and that they’d be interested in me coming along too.

It was thrilling, affirming, delightful and wonderfully hopeful in equal measures.

A number of folk stayed back for a chat – great enthusiasm – smiling – more hand shaking…

Johanna negotiated with Jez to get some filming done in one of the classrooms…and then it was over…

Lovely, lovely, lovely…

This is the way ahead…

Walk a mile

Chris

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This entry was posted in hospitality, inequality, kindness, mental health, walking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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