2.4 – Empowering students

MindMatters in Minutes. Empowering students.

Mental health is not like a driver’s licence; it’s not something you qualify for, you don’t reach a legal mental healthing age. It’s something we all deal with, all the time, from birth. And we all deal with it differently.

Empowering students is about acknowledging this and saying, look, you are in charge of your own mind. What do you want to do to keep it healthy? And how do you want to support the mental health of your peers?

There are many benefits to this. It builds student identity, autonomy, resilience and executive function—plus it creates a positive school culture, and encourages help-seeking in the student community.

So how do you do it? Do you create a student council? Maybe, but the potential of student empowerment is bigger.

Step one is to make a commitment. Declare to students, as a school, that we want you to be part of leading this agenda.

Step two is to teach the fundamentals of mental health, collaboration and decision making—so that students have the knowledge and skills they need to work together effectively.

Step three: Build confidence and capability in students, so everyone feels like they can volunteer. If you create a safe space, you might be surprised who steps up.

Four: Provide opportunities for students to work with staff in designing student-led initiatives, and…

Five: Step in with support when needed—but resist the urge to take over.

Now you might ask, if we give this power to students, what can we expect them to do with it?

And the answer to that is that nobody knows! That’s the point! That’s what makes this exciting.

Different students, in different communities, will come up with completely different ideas.

They might start a poster campaign, run a workshop, book a guest speaker, make a game—they could form a secret society of ninja warriors for all I know.

The point is that empowering students is about creating surprising, inspiring, and emergent effects. If you set the right context, and provide the right support, then you might well be amazed at what happens.

So how about it? Right now you’re in charge. Are you ready to share the power?