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By Mrs Eva Cant, Languages Coordinator

Garden of Thoughts (A Collection of Works on Mental Health)The world seems to on many occasions focus on the harm and negative effects of mental health on society, especially our young. Much is said statistically; cold clinical studies are made; and at times headline grabbing news items are reported carelessly and thoughtlessly. Yet, has anyone truly listened? Have many asked those experiencing mental health issues, for a true and sincere insight into their world? Do many of us even truly understand, or grasp the full picture against the backdrop of growing stigma and increasingly scaremongering media coverage that blurs our reasoning and shuts our eyes? In a world that often seems to favour shock value over real value, one hopes the following will provide a welcome respite and a more dignified connection with mental health issues and those who speak about it so strongly and eloquently.

As a seasoned teacher, I have witnessed the changes in our society through the eyes of our students. As the years have progressed, so have mental health issues. The once unmentionable or shunned subject is now commonplace and discussed in our classrooms as students feel more in need of someone to talk to; a kind ear or a simple cry for help. I have watched this tough yet thin thread gather momentum, with a mixture of compassion and growing fascination.

The youth are perhaps the most honest and clear talkers amongst us. They still carry the no nonsense truths within them, and can thus communicate emotions in the direct and evocative manner that only a child can. Their realities and perceptions are still fresh, and therefore more open to us and enlightening. I therefore have felt privileged and in turn educated by what my students share and confide with me so easily. Their ability to ‘open up’ is refreshing for one more used to the confines and barriers set up by the so called restraints of fitting into adulthood. The youths’ calls and cries are clear and thankfully uncompromised by the rigid protocols and cover ups we at times set to our emotions as adults.

By Laura GledhillTalking, expressing, and writing…all these modes of communication are heralded as great therapy. A problem shared, a mind changed; a prejudice conquered… With these thoughts in mind, I presented my classes with a challenge, or as I would rather see it, an outlet and exciting learning curve.

The Gibraltar College’s English Department launched a mental health awareness week with workshops and discussions focused on this enormous topic. The effects and resulting work was both profound, overwhelming and tear inducing. Many students found an added medium to voice their concerns, perceptions and deepest rooted emotions, regarding this at times, stigmatised subject and state of being. Other students, through fictional works and compassionate insights, interpreted mental health issues surrounding our society in an empathetic and extremely incisive manner. Simply walking and writing in ‘other’s shoes’ can truly enlighten and help conquer stigma, something many of the Gibraltar College students admirably and tenderly achieved... For if we cannot even attempt to relate, half the battle is so sadly lost.

Poetry, short thoughts and stories poured out of the classes like tears that needed crying. As their teacher, I watched in wonder as students emoted so naturally and powerfully onto paper, in mediums they had previously dismissed as unattainable to them. I offered them my own poetry as guidance, for many had never dared attempt verse. Initial reactions of shock and horror at being faced with this style of literary writing melted away, thus revealing to them a free flowing form of expression that could unleash so much of what they had stored. The potential and raw writing that was exposed moved me and shocked me…I was, and am, the proudest teacher! Their work was an inspiration to me that continues to motivate me to this day in every class I encounter.

By Bessma GhabraouiEmbedding mental health into literacy, or literacy into mental health, now seems more natural than ever, and a definite process all teachers should try to instigate in their classrooms. Our classrooms are filled with needs, wants, worries, and hang ups that demand a positive, poetic outlet. This simple approach and opening of new doors for expression and new formats for writing, has empowered, and will continue to do so.

The process was started months ago, yet the creative poems and writings continue flowing. Not only have they expressed, they have learnt and empowered themselves, both by sharing of themselves, and by conquering fears and misconceptions of the written they had previously harboured.

So let us embrace and encourage our youth with open eyes, arms and hearts. Yes, mental health is a growing concern, but from the depths of worry and anxiety, great beauty and strength of character can arise and fly, just like a phoenix. I feel truly blessed and humbled by my students, and dare you, the reader not to be moved by the artistry, flair and guts of our youth. They have called out to you, please listen wisely.


Garden of Thoughts - Digital Copy

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