Read the article 'Shining a light on mental illness' and Xavier's full speech to his school community and answer the following questions. Then share your answers in pairs, small groups or in a classroom discussion.
1. Read Xavier’s full speech that he made at a school assembly. Have you ever felt any of these lonely and empty feelings that Xavier felt? What did you do about it?
2. What did you think of Xavier sharing this very private story of his life so far? Do you think it would be a help to others who may be feeling depressed?
3. Do you think that Xavier may have not had such a good outcome if he didn’t have a relationship with God through his Chaplains and visited his Counsellor on a regular basis?
4. What could you do to make sure those around you at school who seem to be affected by negative criticism or are being bullied are receiving the help they need?
1. Research organisations in your area that deal with mental health. Once you have collected names, phone numbers, addresses etc., make a poster which you can put up in the classroom so that any student who feels they need help, knows where there is help available.
2. Suggest to your RE teacher that you devote one lesson to ‘Mental Health’. After reading Xavier’s speech, write up a list of questions or reflections that would stimulate debate in the classroom. How can one’s faith help the depressed person?
3. As Xavier said, ‘If more people can show an interest in the lives of those around them, then we all feel just a little bit more wanted'. If you see another student on their own at recess or being bullied by another ask them how they are in a meaningful way. You could ask them if there was anything going on in their lives that they want to talk about. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help. Suggest they see the school counsellor or chaplain. If they are afraid to go suggest you can go with them.
For younger students
As we are in a time of Lent we could use this time to talk about bullying in our school. Do a ‘chalk and talk’ experience. Write the words ‘mental health’ and ‘bullying’ on the whiteboard and ask students to be silent during the exercise and to just come up and write any questions they might have around these two phrases. The teacher could begin the exercise by writing something like – ‘What does mental health mean?’
Once all questions are on the board – deal with each one involving the students in the discussion. At the end of the discussion get students to write up on ‘postcards‘ what they could do about bullying and mental health during this time of Lent. Put the postcards up on the wall so students can be reminded of what they have agreed to do at this time.