By Tegan Kemp, Second Year Management
The Black Dog Project is a volunteer-based group, set up by Bristol University Psychology undergraduates, which aims to inform and educate youth groups about mental health and wellbeing.
The project operates with the ideology of removing modern day stigma that exists around mental health and affects so many in our society. We provide assemblies, workshops and listening classes to nearby schools and youth groups, focusing on opening up conversations regarding mental health. It is essential that we encourage those who are struggling, or who may struggle in the future, to talk about how they feel - especially as nowadays figures suggest that one in four people will suffer from poor mental health at some stage of their life.
'About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14'
The name ‘Black Dog Project’ originates from a famous quote from Winston Churchill who referred to his long term depression as a ‘black dog.’ Churchill indeed offers inspiration to those suffering with poor mental health, as he was able to persevere and remain resilient against his internal battles.
We are a passionate committee of ten people who focus on planning lessons, contacting schools and reaching out for new volunteers to train. Our President Nina, third year Psychology student, says: 'mental health will affect everyone at some point, whether they know someone who is struggling or they do themselves, so education on how to deal with this is such a positive thing.' Our presentations include ideas about body image, exam stress and mindfulness, and we offer these alongside encouraging supportive discussions.
Mental health is a topic that is becoming ever-more present in day-to-day conversation as awareness for mental conditions grows. As much as we, as adults, may feel reasonably in tune with our minds and can often identify poor mental wellbeing, young people can find it much harder to develop their understanding of their own mental state. We provide exercises, discussions and advice on ways to tackle this.
The project not only benefits those we present to, but also us as volunteers. Providing insightful presentations has furthered our public speaking skills and increased our knowledge of the topic, both of which make us more employable. This week we visited QEH School, talking to small groups of Year Nine and Ten boys about exam stress. The groups we spoke to were very enthusiastic and all had a rough idea of what ‘mental health’ is. Talking to volunteers of similar ages to themselves really encouraged the students to confidently speak out about any encounters they, or a loved one, had had with poor mental health, in a way they could not speak so openly about to their peers or teachers.
It is a highly rewarding scheme and the impacts that our presentations have are always evident. We are always looking to recruit new volunteers, and offer advice and training for those who can give up their time, so if you are interested in educating others about mental health, and joining a great team of passionate individuals, then please contact myself at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to visit our Facebook page Black Dog Project Bristol and follow us on Instagram @blackdogprojectuob!
Featured image: Epigram / Tegan Kemp
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