Mental health

4th February 2000 at 00:00
A LITTLE UNDERSTANDING - Mental Health Awareness Education Resource. By Julie Garton. Studio 3 Arts pound;50.

The children's mental health charity, Young Minds, has put together this pack of informative leaflets, a video and teacher's notes for class exercises with key stage 4 pupils.

Most valuable are thenotes, which provide background facts about mental health, guidance for using the pack, class exercisesand details of drama conventions for exploring material in the video (a series of "talking heads", derived from the experience of London borough of Barking residents, including a powerful video diary).

The pack is too ambitious in its attempt to cover the entire spectrum from mental health to mental illness. The result, though useful and thought-provoking, will need considerable sifting and preparation, a well-established climate of trust and openness in the classroom, and teachers with the confidence touse drama to raise sensitive issues.

What is missing is encouragement to negotiate clear ground rules with the class and to ensure time is reserved at the end of each lesson for debriefing - often the most valuable opportunity for personal learning. The author also presumes regular, dedicated time for the workon the timetable.

There is no excuse for failing to remind teachersof the vital need to "de-role" all characters at the end of drama sessions, which ensures character cannot be confused with player (by player or onlooker). The material explored can be powerful stuff, and children's emotions must be handled carefully.

Unfortunately, truly excellent mental health resource packs are still rare, and much-needed.

Adrian King is an independent health education consultant.Available from Studio 3 Arts, Faircross Community Complex, Hulse Avenue, Barking, Essex IG11 9UP. Tel: 020 8594 7136

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