In order to raise awareness of the crippling impact that living with a mental health illness can have on everyday life, ten boys from across the Upper School took part in an awareness initiative in conjunction with local charity, The Mind Map. The initiative is aptly named, ‘Shadow on my Back’.

The aim of the initiative is to spend 24 hours wearing a weighted rucksack in order to experience the realities of living with a mental health illness. The primary focus of the campaign is to raise awareness and understanding of the crippling impact that mental health illness can have on the lives of young people and the extent to which this pervades every aspect of their lives, including their ability to interact socially, engage academically and participate in a full and active life.

Fourth Former Harry Hine told us why this is such an important campaign: “It provides a visual representation of a mental illness when it’s not a visual thing. Some people don’t see it and therefore do not think it needs to be treated. This shows that it’s there all the time and it’s serious.”

Despite the soaring heat, the boys kept to their commitment and did not take their rucksacks off all day. Talking about their experiences at the end of the day, when the rucksacks were finally removed, here is what the boys had to say:

“It was really interesting for many reasons. Wearing it all day at all times made me feel really uncomfortable as there was no break from it. Also walking around school, especially in the chapel, made me feel insecure which is what people with depression have to deal with.” – Charlie Probyn, Lower Sixth

“It was very hard to take with me, getting in the way of simple task like walking through doors. Also little Prep School kids would look at me weirdly. This really showed me the struggle of what it was like with having to struggle with mental health, as it can affect your everyday life.” – Matthew Johnston, Lower Sixth

“It felt like an itch that you couldn’t itch and it was very frustrating. Also, people were staring at you which made me feel out of place.” – Toby May, Lower Sixth

“The thing I noticed is how many people you can see looking at you out of the corner of their eye. There were so many tasks that you wouldn’t expect would be impacted but they actually were; it was harder than expected.” – Joe Fordham, Lower Sixth

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