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Schools hold Mental Health Festival

The annual Schools’ Mental Health Festival saw a range of activities such as stories, dance, Zumba, yoga, mindfulness, art, songs, discussion and research taking place across Gibraltar’s schools during Mental Health Week.

The schools covered a range of important themes, including; exercise and mental health, talking about emotions, promoting and spreading kindness, the importance of smiling, determination, courage and resilience, positivity, being kind to your mind, understanding the teenage brain, managing worries and anxiety, building self-esteem, creating a failure-friendly environment, healthy relationships and breaking the mental health stigma.

“The mental health multi agency forum worked to support each other; GHA, Government Staff Well Being, essential services, GibSams, ChildLine and Club House each contributed and played their part in making the festival a success,” the Department of Education said.

Two mental health champions from the UK attended the festival, namely Steve Phillips, founder of the Jordan Legacy, and Tanya Marwaha from Championing Youth Minds.

The Jordan legacy was founded by Mr Phillips soon after his son took his own life, and the charity is aimed at providing hope for anyone who is feeling suicidal.

Ms Marwaha founded Championing Youth Minds as a result of her struggles with her own mental health including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.

The pair delivered talks to younger school children focussing on kindness to others and themselves - they encouraged children to talk about their feelings and reach out if they were sad.

Mr Phillips and Ms Marwaha also delivered talks to older pupils, parents and teachers.

“This event was well attended by parents, guests and members of the multiagency forum,” a statement from the Department of Education said.

“We have been very privileged to have heard Steve and Tanya who spoke from their own experiences.”

“Their talks were extremely emotive and tugged at the heartstrings of their audience, allowing listeners to benefit from their own learning journeys through most challenging circumstances.”

“Attendees welcomed the opportunity to engage with the important and sensitive themes, with a view to increasing their own understanding and to providing the best support possible for individuals within our community.”

The Department of Education said it continues to place children, young people and staff well-being as a central priority and, whilst working within a strong multi-agency forum, all Government of Gibraltar schools promote the key focus within every setting.

Reflecting on the Schools Mental Health Festival, Mr Phillips, said: “It has been an emotionally charged time for all who have participated in this mental health festival but a hugely positive, uplifting and hope filled few days too.”

Minister for Education Dr John Cortes thanked all the professionals who contributed to this event.

Dr Cortes said mental health education is crucial for pupils, teachers and parents, and highlighted the annual festival provides for an important conversation in a safe and supportive environment.

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