This Week in Chapel: Mental Health Awareness Week
Wednesday 17 May 2023
This week in Chapel the focus was Mental Health Awareness Week. On Monday, our outgoing Wellbeing Prefect Georgie I (Year 13) outlined the many activities and drop-in sessions taking place at Queenswood during the course of this week.
On Wednesday, Mrs Truran, Librarian, gave a very moving personal account of her family history and the magical power of reading for pleasure.
We’re delighted to be able to share Mrs Truran’s talk with the wider school community.
As you all know this week is Mental Health Awareness week. I hope you have been taking part in some of the activities that Georgie talked about on Monday morning, or at the very least thinking about how your mental health is at the moment and what you can do to keep on the right path.
When I was a child, a long time ago, my mother suffered with really bad mental health issues. To be honest I say that but I didn’t know at the time what it was. She would all of a sudden disappear from our lives, my dad and me. She would go to her bedroom and stay there for days sometimes. We could hear sobbing at times and shouting at other times. My dad used to cook her food and leave it outside the door. She never ate it. Sometimes he would sit outside and try and coax her out.
This wasn’t odd to me because I knew no different.
I am not telling you this to make you sad but merely to highlight how things have moved on. When I was older I asked my mum what happened at this time. She couldn’t explain other than to say she went into a dark tunnel and had to wait to come out. This also would happen at any moment. It was only in her later life that we were able to talk about this.
Today mental health issues are a much more open topic. We can say we are feeling down and we can not only get help but we can look for strategies to help us cope with these feelings, emotions and anxieties.
This experience in my childhood made me think long and hard about how I would cope with the inevitable stresses and anxieties I would encounter along the way. I was determined that it was not going to take hold of me the way it had my mother, but that isn’t always easy. Life is tough and we need to grasp the good bits with both hands and enjoy them.
I wasn’t always a librarian. In fact when I left school I trained as a buyer in a top London department store. But when I married and moved to the suburbs I found that commuting daily was not for me. Anxieties set in and I decided on a change of lifestyle and career.
I won’t bore you with the in-between bit but in later life I became a children’s librarian. You see, books were my salvation. I realised that I had always been a voracious reader and that this was indeed my escape. This was where I went to cope.
I began to remember the books I had read as a child and the books I had read in the school library. How that happened I am not sure as it certainly wasn’t cool to be there in my friendship group.
I am not saying this is the golden ticket but for me this works. Reading – not just reading, but reading for pleasure. Spending some time each day immersing myself in a book keeps me on the right path.
I was talking about this with a book pal last night and she summed this up perfectly. I am without doubt a total bookworm. I cannot imagine life without books.
Books and reading are to an extent my barometer. A record of my feelings and my mental wellbeing.
You have heard the bible reading and sung the hymn about compassion and being there for everyone. In a way books are my neighbour. They see me through!
From health reasons to getting smarter there are so many benefits that reading for pleasure offers. If you feel like getting away from everything, from the hustle and bustle, a book can transport you to a different world. It can uplift your soul and transport you to another realm where your anxieties can be lost, take you to a safer place. Reading for pleasure can help us be more empathetic towards our friends and colleagues, give us the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings, to make us kinder and stronger.
We can learn this empathy through books and stories, through the characters we meet there. Empathy is our human super power.
- Did you know that reading for 6 minutes or more can reduce stress by 60%
- Did you know that it can reduce heart rate, ease muscle tension and help alter your state of mind.
- Did you know that reading for pleasure is 100% more effective in reducing stress than having a cup of tea.
- 300% more effective than going for a walk. (sorry Miss Yaffe! – I’m not too sure about this one! )
- 600% more than playing a videogame.
So apart from all the amazing academic stuff reading for pleasure improves it can also help make us better people, better listeners.
My go to stress reliever is a good book. My all-time favourite is Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. This is the book I return to when I need to get lost and find myself again. However I also love picture books and nowadays picture books cover a wealth of wellbeing subjects hopefully giving young people a better understanding of how to look after our mental health.