Lower Sixth Girls' Chapel Talk on Mental Health

Three of our Lower Sixth girls gave an excellent Chapel talk today on the very important subject of mental health. 

Girls In Chapel 1

As part of their talk they included the poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann, a very poignant reminder that each and every person has value, and of the need to focus on our strenghts and potential and not our perceived shortcomings. Two extracts from the poem are below, followed by the girls' full Chapel talk.

"If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans."

"You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here."

Good morning everyone. Today we would like to talk to you about the importance of mental health. As I am sure many of you are aware, last week was Mental Health Week and it focussed on the theme and importance of nature which is why we would like to speak to you about it today. 

For the past year, our lives have been completely turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. We have been lurched into what we feel is almost a reversal of reality: wearing masks, sanitising everywhere and isolating from loved ones. However, today, Freyha and I would like to talk to you about another pandemic that is just as challenging. That of mental health. Despite not being physical, it is one of the most prevailing illnesses of our time. Mental illnesses can take the form of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and many more. With one in eight young people suffering from at least one mental disorder, it is an issue of particular importance for our age group. 

Girls In Chapel 2

Before we get into the talk we would like to reiterate the definition of mental health and ask you some questions so you have some idea of some statistics. Most of us know, and we are in fact about to mention, some of the more extreme examples but with mental health being: ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being’, it can come in all shapes and sizes. So no matter how or what you are feeling, it is valid. Correct answers in bold.

What percentage of mental health disorders start before the age of 24?

  1. 25%

  2. 50%

  3. 75% 

Suicide is the:

  1. First cause of death amongst young people

  2. Third cause of death amongst young people

  3. Tenth cause of death amongst young people 

True or false: Mental health conditions account for 5% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years. False: The correct answer is 16% 

We all hear about the dangers of social media on a daily basis from adults and other teenagers alike. However, its constant pressures on body image, achievements and social life can cause anxiety to sky rocket. 

Our on-the-go society updates us with continual news reports and information. Therapists like Rachel O’Neill believe that this is why there is a higher rate of mental illness in today's world. She says “It’s hard to step away from the constant cycle of news....whether you’re watching one of the 24 hour news channels on TV or you’re scrolling through one of the social media sites.”

Girls In Chapel 3

Particularly for the upper parts of the school, future plans are certain to be a cause of stress. These concerns are about our own individual futures and also that of the world. Deciding which GCSEs, A-levels and degrees today is an extremely stressful experience. 

However, one of the most prevalent reasons for poor mental health is the stigma around it. People feel embarrassed to see a therapist, embarrassed to admit that something is wrong whether that be something big or small. 

This links to one of the key themes surrounding this topic - asking for help. During this pandemic, lots of us have experienced a mental health problem or seen a loved one struggle.  So, I urge you to speak to someone, whether that be your friends, prefects, family or teachers.  Please do speak to someone about it because there are so many people struggling right now and usually they’re too afraid to speak up. The good news is that the stigma around mental health appears to be lifting, with more young people being prepared to speak up than ever before. So if one of your friends seems down, please ask them how they’re doing and if you think it's more serious than they’re letting on, speak to a teacher.  A simple smile or “hello” can make someone's day, particularly if they are struggling.  

As Georgie mentioned, the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week was nature.  Nature is a great way to give yourself a much-needed break. As we all know, Glenalmond is situated in the midst of the beautiful countryside, so take advantage of these surroundings.  For example, something as simple as going for a walk or playing tennis to clear your mind is a great idea and can be extremely useful.  More than half of UK adults say that being surrounded by nature has improved their mental health and 40% people say it has made them feel less worried and anxious.  This allows them to feel more positive emotions and move away from the negative pent-up thoughts inside their head. 

The hardest part of all of this is reflecting on where we are and making the decision to change, but all of this is in your control.  Become conscious of your habits, identify any need for change and then gradually make that change happen.  Keep busy. Glenalmond does a great job of keeping us all occupied so please do take advantage of this and enjoy the mental health benefits of nature. 

As Michelle Obama said: "Whether an illness affects your heart, your arm or your brain, it's still an illness and there shouldn't be any distinction. We should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”       

So finally, with her words, we urge you to speak up and ask for help if you’re struggling. There are so many people around you, both at home and at school, who have your best interests at heart and want you to be happy and healthy. Healthy both mentally and physically. 




Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truths quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.