January 29, 2021


By Diana Award National Anti-Bullying Youth Board members, Paige & Theo.

The Diana Award National Anti-Bullying Youth Board met virtually with Legacy Award recipient, Ben West, to hear about his incredible work encouraging open conversations about mental health in schools and campaigning to make mental health first aid a compulsory part of teacher training. Read on to hear from Youth Board members, Paige & Theo, about what they learned from Ben and ideas for coping with stress.

Ben West received the Diana Award in 2019 and went on to receive the Legacy Award that same year for his work on mental health in schools. His aim is to get people talking openly about how they feel and their mental health.

Ben’s story was inspiring. We learnt that not all mental health struggles are visible and that it is vital to check up on your loved ones frequently, especially during these uncertain times. We also learnt about the lack of understanding and stigma attached to mental health.

We all cope with uncertainty and stress, especially in this weird world we are living in because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lots of ideas were shared in the Youth Board discussion and we found how we all cope and what we do to cope differs from person to person. Here are some ideas we discussed:

  • Watching comfort TV with familiar characters and plotlines for you to lean on or escape the world for 45 minutes.
  • Expressing yourself is key – whether that be through dance or singing your favourite song at the top of your voice.  
  • Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal or giving yourself a pep talk in the mirror.

Regardless of what you do to cope, the most important thing is that you are getting your feelings and emotions out in one way or another. It’s so important that you don’t bottle things up and, if you need to, there is no shame in talking to someone about how you are feeling if everything gets a little overwhelming. We all cope differently!

Mental health is something that we should value and look after. So, it’s important that all students have a voice and feel comfortable talking about how they are feeling. Here are a couple of ways we discussed improving work in schools.

  • Buddy system: certain students should be allocated to check on individuals from younger year groups. That way, students have someone their age to relate too and confide in when needed.  
  • Younger individuals usually find it harder to express their emotions with the fear of not being taken seriously; this is not okay! Take the time to sit down with your younger siblings and friends and ask them how they are feeling. It’s the little acts of kindness that mean the most to someone.

2019 Legacy Award recipient, Ben West, who received the award for his work on mental health in schools.

On top of this peer-to-peer support, teachers should be trained to have a deeper understanding of what ‘mental health’ means and how to recognise it across all age groups. Most teachers have never been trained to deal with Mental health in any way shape or form. Some schools are lucky enough to have staff trained as ‘mental health first-aiders’, which is amazing. We feel that more teachers should at least know how to recognise and deal with someone who is experiencing negative mental health – just as they know how to deal with someone with a papercut. Ben really highlighted this issue for us and motivated us all to speak up about it!

And just remember if you’re concerned for your own or for someone else’s wellbeing or mental health, you can contact The Diana Award’s Advice Messenger anytime if you live in the UK by texting ‘DA’ to 85258 for free advice from trained professionals on issues surrounding bullying behaviour, mental health and more.

You can also contact Childline for free on 0800 1111.

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