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Mental Health Awareness in our schools

Within our schools, some exciting projects took place during Mental Health Awareness week with a focus on nature and the environment and the central role it plays in helping to support positive mental health. Onthank Primary School wrote postcards for residents from Crossgate Care Home and members of the local community. Lexi from P5 wrote – ‘Enjoy the sunshine, morning brings a new freshness, in thought, in actions, in things to do. It feels like everything is so pleasant and new. May you have the brightest day.’; while Mauchline Primary shared ‘Advice from a Tree' – Stand Tall and Proud; Go out on a limb; Remember your roots; Drink plenty of water; Be content with your natural beauty and Enjoy the view’!

The positive messages shared throughout our schools and communities during Mental Health awareness week is a very small part of the daily conversations and positive work that takes place to help to support the mental health of our children and young people. The East Ayrshire School Counselling service works with all schools in East Ayrshire to provide support for children and young people aged 10 years and over. 

The service is provided by The Exchange, who are able to support children and young people with a number of issues including bereavement/ transitions and change, managing stress, managing anger, self-worth and positive self-image, body image and relationships and friendships.

Kerry Jarvis, School Counselling Coordinator said: “The-Exchange is now providing counselling and emotional and psychological support in all schools in East Ayrshire.   The service provides a private space where children and young people, aged ten years and older, can talk about things that are troubling them.

“Talking things over with a professional can help children to find better ways to cope with difficulties. Young people who attend our secondary schools, will generally be referred to the counselling service by their guidance teacher or have the option to refer themselves and primary aged children will be referred either by their teacher or a key adult within their school.

“Within a secondary setting guidance staff will always talk to the young person about this before requesting assistance from the counselling service and will encourage them to involve their parents/ carers too. In a primary setting, parents or carers are always informed and encouraged to be part of the process. 

“Counselling is confidential and provides a safe space for children and young people to discuss issues that are concerning them. The service helps children and young people make healthy choices and provides them with positive strategies to cope with difficulties.”

"Since beginning in January 2021, we have received positive feedback from young people, teachers and parents about the impact the service is having on young people.  Pupil feedback has included "I wish I had this sooner" and "I now have ways of managing my anxiety, I never thought that would happen".”

Elizabeth Heron, Head Teacher at St Sophia’s Primary commented: "I made a request to The Exchange yesterday - it went really smoothly and after submission I was called back within about 15 minutes. The family are being contacted today so it was all very quick. Whilst completing the online form, there is a chat function and you can get immediate support as you complete it. I'm really pleased that a young person will access support so quickly.”

Shona Elder, Depute Head Teacher at Doon Academy said: "We are really pleased with how the service is progressing and have had some really positive feedback from pupils and parents."

Running in parallel with the Counselling service is the Health and Wellbeing Parental Blog and online training for parents and carers. On Tuesday 8 June, a free ‘Anti-bullying – respectme’ awareness training session will be held from 6.30pm to 7.30pm via Vscene, For more information please email catrina.o’

The Wellbeing team is also seeking parent volunteers to guest blog on the Parental Wellbeing Awareness blog. The guest blogger would select a topic of interest to talk about, would review the content of the blog and post weekly comments. For more information, please email catrina.o’

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “Mental Health Awareness Week is a wonderful opportunity to take time to think about and to discuss mental health awareness. I was delighted to hear about the wonderful initiatives in our schools and see the creativity of our children and young people online.

“What is more important though, is that the conversations don’t stop at the end of the week. They continue every day in our schools as we work to support parents and carers and of course our children and young people. Mental health is an illness like any other, it is nothing to be ashamed of and I am so proud that our children and young people are empowered to talk openly about issues that are affecting their mental wellbeing and finding positive ways to cope with their emotions.

“There are extensive resources available through our schools. All you have to do is take the first step and talk to your school about concerns for your child or young person or you can contact the East Ayrshire Counselling service. There is help out there, you aren’t alone.”

If you would like further information about the East Ayrshire School Counselling service please contact your school, check out their website About the Service | East Ayrshire School Counselling Service ( or  contact Coordinator Kerry Jarvis

More information for parents/carers is available in this leaflet and YouTube video exchange-leaflet-for-parents-secondary-updated.pdf (  final - YouTube