Message from the head of school - 15 June 2018

There is currently worldwide focus on mental health and the increase in the percentage of those suffering from debilitating mental illnesses. In South Africa, we are also aware of the pervasive levels of stress in society. At St Mary’s, we believe it is important to educate pupils about mental health and wellbeing in an attempt to equip them with skills to manage their personal stress and anxiety which, it is important to note, are natural human responses.

St Mary’s has the opportunity to screen the documentary Angst when we return from half-term. This is a hard-hitting film about anxiety, stress and depression and, although it is within an American context, it speaks to human experience in the 21st century. The girls will view the film during school time on Monday 2 July and we will host a screening for parents on Tuesday 3 July. Following the screening, the girls will have time to explore their responses to the documentary by working through a structured worksheet with their mentor teachers and mentor groups.

At a recently convened conference of the South African Girls’ Schools Association, Dr Warner and I listened to psychologist Dr Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, speak about dealing with anxiety and stress in teenage girls. She reminded us that adults must manage the perspectives of adolescents and we cannot allow them to avoid the challenges that life holds. Anxiety and stress are not problematic in themselves, and we are equipped to deal with these responses. All children will feel overwhelmed at some stage but it is for parents and teachers to equip children to recognise their feelings and use their systems to recalibrate. Our hope is that Angst will provide a starting point for discussion and learning.

I wish all our St Mary’s families a happy and restful half-term.

Deanne King

Head of School