Bid to improve mental health in communities makes a big difference for Stokesley School

The drive to tackle the growing problem of mental ill-health in the region and to reduce the number of suicides is moving forward with funding for projects that aim to reduce loneliness and social and emotional isolation.

The grant programme is the result of a funding bid by North Yorkshire County Council and local NHS organisations to NHS England.  The purpose is to support projects which strengthen the mental health of groups and communities.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “At some point in their lives, one in four people will experience mental health issues. In North Yorkshire, that’s around 150,000 people – more than the populations of Harrogate and Scarborough combined.

“The aim is to support a national initiative to reduce suicide rates in England by 10 per cent in the coming year. The projects which are being funded will build on the important work already under way in North Yorkshire to help prevent suicides and to improve the access to, and quality of, mental health services in general.

“This programme plays an important part to further the work of North Yorkshire mental health strategy, Hope, Control and Choice, and the mental health Crisis Care Concordat that we are carrying out with our partners.”

Stokesley School received funding previously and decided to create a space in the school grounds.

Stokesley School students intend to use their grant funding to create a Zen Garden in the school grounds. During the 2018/19 academic year students met weekly to design the look of the garden and gather 150 inspirational mental health quotes to be distributed around the school. The quotes are now ready for distribution, and work on the construction of the Zen Garden is about to start.

The Zen Garden is an integral element of a project to raise awareness of mental health at Stokesley School, with its Ethos Team working on initiatives to improve the students’ environment.  The garden will be a welcoming space for students where they can enjoy mindfulness sessions whilst appreciating the health benefits of the great outdoors.  Dedicated zones will feature seating pods, including friendship benches, where students and staff can relax, take time out and socialise together.  It aims to be a setting where students and staff can build and foster relationships in a more tranquil environment. 

Year 11 student, Rory Dack, was the student coordinator for the project in 2018/19 and will share responsibilities for design and construction proposals. Rory said: “The students are really excited by the project and are motivated to share their ideas to create a space that they have some ownership, and feeling of accomplishment.  We’re all really proud to have an input in each step of the process and to contribute to how the design and construction develops.”

Mrs Brosnan, Head of Year 8, said: “I am so excited about the Zen Garden Project. The students are enthusiastic and the design process is rapidly gathering momentum. We greatly appreciate NYCC’s fantastic support of the project and I am really looking forward to realising our aim of raising awareness of mental health to break down negative stigmas associated with it. The Zen Garden will be a positive, open and honest environment where students have the opportunity to discuss their wellbeing and practice strategies that will help them build their sense of resilience and self-worth.”