Jessica is currently on placement working as a Volunteer Mentor with City Year UK. She’s really making the most of her time away from Aston, and has used her experience working with children and her knowledge of psychology and neuroscience to start an innovative Wellbeing Club to help pupils at Hall Green Secondary School to manage anxiety and stress.
Jessica takes us through her work, why she set up the club, and the impact it’s had…
I started the wellbeing club as I have a keen interest in children and young people’s mental health. I run these clubs outside of school in a local community centre for children and wanted to give the opportunity to secondary school pupils. The programme is designed to help young people manage anxiety and stress whilst boosting self-esteem and confidence, which is done by following a seven-step programme as outlined in the image on the right. I also added crafts relating to the week’s topic to reinforce what we are learning.
To start my club, I approached the welfare officer and asked for support in selecting Year 7 and 8 students who would benefit most from the group.
Throughout the club I have noticed substantial improvements in students, especially in the ‘believe’ step. During the class I explained that we were going to be using positive affirmations and that this is when we say something nice about ourselves or someone else. One student in particular struggled with this more than the others and said he did not want to participate as there was nothing nice to say about him.
I told the attendees that scientific studies show that regularly practising affirmation can:
- Lead to a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine which is known to have the effect of increasing motivation, commitment and attention.
- Increase brain connections ‘neuroplasticity’ – which means that children can literally rewire their brains to think more positively by focusing on positive thoughts!
- Combat the effect of negative emotions.
Affirmations are difficult to begin with and I reassured the students that they would learn to start believing in themselves over the next few weeks. The third class began to confirm this when the student who said there was nothing nice to say about himself decorated their affirmation tile with the words ‘I am brilliant’ and added the words ‘negative energy’ with a cross through it. It was so rewarding to see this student start to feel positively about themselves in such a short space of time.