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What does a person with mental health issues look like?

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To challenge the myth that mentally ill people are dangerous.

Preparation and materials

  • Find some pictures of Stephen Fry, Alastair Campbell and Catherine Zeta-Jones and have the means of displaying them during the assembly.
  • You will need a reader to read the news item, printed out from Mind’s website, available at: www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/comment-on-halloween-attractions
  • Find the song ‘You’ve got a friend’ by Carole King and James Taylor and have the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
  • Note that it will be necessary to be sensitive to any issues within the school and your students’ families and bear these in mind, adapting as required, when you lead this assembly.

Assembly

  1. What do the following people have in common? Stephen Fry, Alastair Campbell, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

    All of them have had some form of mental illness. The person next to you or someone in this assembly may have had, be suffering from now or may suffer from a mental illness in the future.

  2. Mental illness can take many forms – depression, OCD, anxiety, personality disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders.

  3. In the news, supermarkets such as Asda, Tesco and the Internet site Amazon were criticized for displaying costumes for Hallowe’en of ‘mental patients’. Asda dropped its ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’ and Tesco later withdrew its ‘psycho ward’ outfit. The following news item from Mind’s website talks about Hallowe’en attractions that also did not think things through.

  4. Reader Reads the news item from Mind’s website, prepared above.

  5. Historically, those who were mentally ill were locked away and seen as a danger to society, but the charity Mind and a group entitled Time to Change are behind a campaign to get rid of some of the stigma surrounding those who suffer from mental illness. Mind, which complained that such costumes ‘fuel’ stigma, will receive a £25,000 donation from Asda.

  6. It is important to realize, people sometimes struggle with issues that cannot be 'seen' and they may be unwell in some ways that aren’t obvious to the outside world. 

    Understanding that some people suffer from mental illness is important. Helping them is also important. We can do this by realizing that their mental health issues won't necessarily be clearly obvious, but they will need for us to be aware and show understanding.

Time for reflection

The number of people who suffer from mental illness of some kind is far higher than many of us realize. There will be people here today who are affected. A recent storyline in Neighbours featured eating disorders  . . .

Spend a few moments considering how you could be supportive to friends who are stressed or showing signs of feeling down. A kindly word or action means a lot when times are tough and sometimes helps us to get through the day in a better frame of mind than if people ignore us or don’t take that trouble.

If you are worried about someone, talk to him or her about your worries. A listening ear is always good and you may be able to encourage him or her to get some help.

Music

‘You’ve got a friend’ by Carole King and James Taylor

Publication date: January 2014   (Vol.16 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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