Becoming healthier versions of ourselves

Making change and championing positive behaviour sets us on a path towards better health and relationships. Occurring throughout Week 8 and 9 of Autumn Term 2021, Men's Health Week allows us to reflect on our behaviour in line with the theme 'Get courageous: it takes courage to appreciate, celebrate and initiate'. Our Director of Student & Staff Wellbeing James Hindle discusses the need to embrace vulnerability whilst Year 11 student Ben Walsh explains how honest communication can strengthen relationships.


It requires courage to step away from old patterns of seeing and doing

This year, there are three parts to our theme:

Firstly, we have to appreciate that some of our behaviours need to change, particularly as men. Some may be minor, but they may fit into a bigger pattern that is not healthy for us or for those around us. The power of the bystander is so important in pointing out what's not good enough.

Secondly, we need to celebrate the good parts of how we look after others and ourselves. We should be recognising and championing helpful behaviour in ourselves and looking for ways we can do these things more often. Here, power lies in the sharing of our positive stories and role models.

And thirdly, we need to consider what changes we can initiate to look after ourselves and others better. Here, the power lies within each of us.

Last week, I learned that young men are getting better. Better at talking about challenging things in their lives; better at listening to each other and and better at being comfortable with feeling awkward and vulnerable.

– James Hindle, Director of Staff & Student Wellbeing

Driven by Mr Mark Gale and Year 11 representatives, initial discussions for Men's Health Week blossomed from the Year 11 Leadership course. They have focused on the concept of a 'paradigm shift' this Term: a completely different way of looking at and seeing the world.

Meetings were held after school and discussion ranged across a wide variety of ideas connected to men's health. The Year 11 representatives took these initial ideas back to their Year 11 House groups. They had further discussion regarding a way to narrow this down and what sort of activities might be used to reinforce the key ideas, before the representatives met again to reach a consensus on what this year's focus would be. The boys will be running the following activities during Weeks 8 and 9:

Chapel presentation

Ben Walsh compiled a video which comprised of interviews with a number of Year 11s who were asked: "What is a difficult situation you have faced?" and "How did you deal with it?". We were then very fortunate to witness two interviews. Nelson Hegge (Year 11, Stuart) interviewed Michael Gao (Year 11, Stuart), one of our overseas students. Michael spoke candidly about the challenges he has faced and experiencing a car accident whilst living over 6,000km from home and not being physically present with his family for over 18 months.

Jake Marshall interviewed Toby Evans about the challenges he and his family faced when one of them went through a difficult illness. Toby was very clear about his role models in dealing with such a difficult situation, as well as eloquently expressing what his family had learned from facing such adversity.

In each of these three presentations, we witnessed a willingness to share and to be vulnerable in front of others. Such generosity set a fine example for the rest of us. The boys also displayed an awareness that help is available; from friends, family, teachers and others. It also became clear that we have a requirement to look out for others.

Mentor groups

Within each House, the Year 11s have also been running different activities within their House mentor groups. These are designed around sharing more deeply – creating a photo board which shows who their role models are and why they look up to particular people; outlining the qualities they admire and respect in others; discussing behaviours and situations which concern them and how we can respond better; and having circle discussions to gauge where people are at regarding how comfortable they are to share and to seek help.

Year 8–11 activities

The Year 11s will also be heading to Middle School to run a series of activities with our Year 8 students. Some of these will run along the same lines as the mentor activities in Senior School. Similarly, the aim is to demonstrate to our younger students that it is important to find healthy ways to deal with difficulty; the younger we can do this, the better for our long-term physical and mental health.

To become a better version of ourselves, we need to be willing to make changes

To change destructive behaviour, or to adopt new and healthy behaviour, two things have to happen. Firstly a person must be presented with an alternative, healthy behaviour and be shown how it works. Secondly, they have to be willing to make a change; for their benefit and for the benefit of those around them.

We have to be honest about why we began to engage in such behaviour and why we continue with such behaviour.

To live a better version of our lives, to become a better version of ourselves, we need to be willing to make changes. This is a continual process which is made up of many small, incremental adjustments rather than sudden, monumental shifts. It is built upon awareness and honest reflection. Most of all, it requires courage to step away from old patterns of seeing and doing and rather embrace different, healthier ways of treating ourselves and those around us.

We mainly think that it's students who learn things in school. Well, teachers learn stuff too. Last week, I learned that young men are getting better. Better at talking about challenging things in their lives; better at listening to each other and and better at being comfortable with feeling awkward and vulnerable. That gives me great hope for us as a society that we can continue to become healthier versions of ourselves.

James Hindle
Director of Student & Staff Wellbeing


We also need have courage to celebrate and share the good things

During Men's Health Week at Scotch, we focused on the theme 'Get courageous: it takes courage to appreciate, celebrate and initiate'. Individually and as a collective, we took courage to acknowledge there are behaviors in our lives which need to change. We also need have courage to celebrate and share the good things we do with others. By acknowledging and celebrating behaviors, the ultimate goal was to initiate change, to discover strategies to look after yourself and others and also identify characteristics of our role models which we can employ in our day-to-day lives.

Throughout the week, showed courage by identifying a challenge or a role model in their life. Boys expressed courage in activities such as the 'anonymous circle', a worry bucket and an interview that was presented virtually and in Chapel. The anonymous circle enabled boys to express their feelings by raising their hand if they resonated with the emotions described in the question. This allowed each student in the class to understand that everyone has their own struggles. The worry bucket was a way for students to anonymously express their feelings in a safe environment. The interviews allowed students to hear about others' struggles, but more importantly, the strategies they used to overcome this challenge.

Strategies the boys used to deal with their challenges included never taking anything for granted, having a go at a new activity, being grateful for opportunities given to them and remaining resilient and positive. It was clear amongst conversations that in times of struggle, friendship, family, friends and staff provide a sense of support and compassion, which is something we all desire in the face of adversity. The boys also commented on their role model being someone who is the first person to celebrate an achievement, the first person to be there for you if something is wrong and someone who is approachable. This is something we all hope to embody.

I believe Men's Health Week is important as it allows students from different year groups to connect on a deeply personal and meaningful level by discussing emotions which we experience. By opening up, we can build strong connections amongst students and we can nurture a robust College community. That is why Men's Health Week is so important to me.

Ben Walsh
Year 11 Student

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