Friday 27th January 2017
I interviewed Mark Brown, one of the friendly counsellors here at King Edward's, about his role in the college and how he supports the students.
I think giving people a place where they can come and talk about their feelings and to be able to get things off their chest. For a lot of young people they don’t necessarily feel like they’re being listened to by adults - people can say they’re listening but it’s not actually the case! So it's important to have a place where they can come and know they have the floor and are able to talk about what they want to talk about and to feel like they’re being heard.
It varies from year to year. There’s a lot of anxiety for a lot of young people at the moment, and that relates to how they're feeling about the future, what they’re going to be doing next, expectations of work and family and exam stress is also quite a big one.
For year 12s, it’s really the transition from secondary school to college that’s a big one for a lot of people. For those that feel that way it may be comforting to know that I suggest about 90% of the year 12 student body may feel that way; I think in general, everyone struggles with that. We try to make our counselling service as easily accessible as possible so that students know they have somewhere to go to get things off their chest. It might be just what some of them need. There’s no hierarchy of problems. There’s no pyramid scale which says those who are experiencing this and this are the only people were going to work with. Counsellors don’t think along those lines. Whatever you come into the room with, it will be treated with the individual respect it deserves. Whatever’s important to you is important to us!
I hope so! We offer students 6 counselling sessions here; sometimes 6 sessions can feel like the perfect amount, other times it feels like not enough and sometimes it can feel like more than enough. I think it’s about trying to create an opportunity for that young person to feel as though they have a place to get things off their chest. Sometimes talking to someone who is a complete stranger might be a bit strange to begin with, but it actually helps because there’s no link to anyone else in your life. For example, you may have a very strong friendship group, but there may be an issue and you might not be able to talk to anyone in your group about the problem if you’re worried that you might be judged or that it could get back to that person.
When you talk to one of the counsellors, who don’t know anyone in your life, then you're free to talk openly about how you're feeling and to express yourself.
There are 3 of us in total: Katie works Mondays and Wednesdays, I work Tuesdays and Thursdays and Yvette works on Fridays, so there’s a counselling service 5 days a week. Having worked in a number of colleges around the West Midlands for a number of years now, so it’s really great to see just how much this college embraces the counselling service. That comes from the principal, all the way through senior management team and down to the SSTs. Students here are very lucky to have a 5 day a week service which is free as there have been huge cuts to counselling and health services at the moment, where people can end up on the waiting list and even have to pay. So to have a free service in a familiar environment really helps and here, we fit your counselling sessions around your timetable to make it convenient for you.
You can ask your SST or a teacher to make a referral for you. Alternatively, you can email us directly at email@example.com. Also, if the door's open, there’s nothing to stop you from coming in and asking a few questions
For me, the biggest thing is recognising it’s actually okay to get help and support. Sadly, I feel we do still have a real issue in this country in regards to how we look at mental health and how we look at counselling support. It’s still very much stigmatised and if someone is seen to have counselling that it automatically means they're either ‘weak’, ‘weird’, ‘mad’ or incapable of looking after themselves. So it’s about recognising the fact that it’s okay to ask for help and to get support, because we do that for lots of different people in our lives anyway. If a friend comes to us in need of some help, then we offer them our support. But sometimes we need support ourselves and its okay to ask for that; it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you!
Times: 9am – 4:30pm
Location: in the library (tower room)
Sessions: 6 sessions per student
Katie – Mondays and Wednesdays
Mark – Tuesdays and Thursdays
Yvette – Fridays
By Shashamani Jackson (St Peter's Collegiate Academy)
College closure from 7:00am on 24th July 2017