Students at nine schools across London and the Thames Valley were the first to take part in wellbeing sessions led by Thames Water’s community speakers as part of Children’s Mental Health Week, which launched on February 4.
With support from the mental health charity Mind, staff from the water company gave talks in school assemblies in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and East London. They also hosted roundtable discussions to provide Year 11 students with practical tips on improving and maintaining their mental wellbeing, as they prepare for the world of work.
Karl Simons, Thames Water’s chief health, safety and security officer, said: “There is real appetite from the headteachers we’ve talked with to use this week as a catalyst to engage their students. Thames Water is a business leader in tackling mental health challenges within the workplace and we’re pleased to share the successful tools we’ve used, to help increase awareness among our younger generation of customers.
“In recognising the importance of talking about mental health issues from an early age, we aim to help prepare these young people for entry into the world of work and their future careers.”
Thames Water’s widely-praised mental health strategy, which includes training and clearly identifying staff as mental health first aiders, has seen a 75 per cent reduction in work-related stress, anxiety and depression since 2014. This is the first time its community speakers have introduced mental health awareness to the long-running education programme, which normally focuses on the water cycle and has reached over 77,000 students since 2015.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “It’s great to see Thames Water raising awareness of mental health among young people. We know that many mental health problems begin in childhood and the more we can do to help our young people understand their mental health and look after their own wellbeing, the better. Showing them that it’s ok to talk about it and seek help if they need to will set them in good stead for the rest of their lives.”
Andrew Franks, associate assistant headteacher at Highdown School in Reading, said: “We’re committed to the mental wellbeing of our students and this programme is a great way of raising awareness of mental health issues. We’re looking forward to Thames Water’s speakers sharing their experiences.”
As part of Thames Water’s record £11.7 billion business plan for 2020-25, the company has announced an ambitious target to reach every school-age child in its region to help more young people understand the journey water makes when it leaves their homes.