PSHE KS3 / KS4: Time to talk about... depression, with Roman Kemp

This film starts with Ishmael’s story. Ishmael is played by an actor and his story is a reconstruction based on a real call to Childline. Ishmael describes feeling isolated and feeling unable to communicate with friends. He describes how isolated this makes him feel as he has no one to talk to and share hobbies with.

The film then focuses on DJ and television personality Roman Kemp who talks about his own experiences of depression and isolation. Roman started experiencing depression as a teenager and found support through counselling after his mum noticed he wasn’t himself.

Alex, the expert from Childline, emphasises how important it is to talk to a parent, teacher, trusted adult or friend if you feel depressed. Remember that everyone feels sad and down sometimes, but we usually start feeling better after a day or two. Someone experiencing depression may have feelings of low mood over a longer period of time and will struggle with feelings of hopelessness. Key steps that Alex suggests trying include:

  • Try new things
  • Focus on the positive things about yourself
  • Start a hobby
  • Speak to someone you trust

The reconstructions are based on real calls from Childline service users, but are not necessarily direct quotes. All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person involved.

Before watching the film

Set up a working agreement or set of group rules before watching the film. Make it clear that there is no pressure on students to share any personal experiences. They can talk about the characters in the phone call reconstructions and the contributors’ experiences instead. Remind students that the classroom is be a safe space to discuss and share thoughts if they wish to, and that they should be aware of and respect others’ opinions and experiences. Remind them also that you cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality but will talk to individuals if you have any concerns. The agreement should include how and where to access support if needed.

People of different genders, backgrounds and cultures may approach their mental health in different ways. Talk about the pressures on young people and whether gender makes a difference. Be sensitive that young people from some cultural backgrounds may not find it easy to talk about mental health and remind them they don’t have to talk about themselves. Use the distancing technique to ensure that the students feel safe and comfortable talking about the issues in the films. Talk about what the contributors say or talk about ‘someone who.’

Open up a general discussion about mental health and as a group come up with words they associate with the topic of the film. Remind the students that if they need any support at any point they can ask, either during or after the lesson.

After watching the film

  • How might you begin a conversation with a friend or family member you’re worried may be experiencing depression?
  • How might you start that conversation if you were the one who needed help?
  • Compile some conversation starters that might help get the ball rolling. If it was you who needed help you might say something like, ‘Can I talk to you for a sec?’ or ‘I’m finding things hard at the moment.’ If you are worried about a friend you might come up with some conversation openers like, ‘Are you ok?’ or ‘You don’t seem yourself lately. How’s it going?’
  • Make a list of people you could talk to at school and at home. Include a family member, a friend and an expert such as a counsellor or GP. How might you open a conversation with them?

Remind the students that they don’t have to solve or fix their friend’s problems. Just being a sympathetic listener is really important. If they think their friend needs some extra support they can offer to go with them to talk to a teacher, doctor or counsellor and be there as moral support.

As a group, talk about ways that everyone can support each other with their mental health. You may even want to create a class charter around more positive mental health or encourage each student to make a list of three practical things they can do to support their own positive mental health.

Make sure that students are supported in their own mental health and wellbeing by signposting support that is available in school, locally and nationally. Remind them that they can always speak to their GP or local services.

Remind students that if they or someone they know has suicidal thoughts then it is important to get help immediately. This is not something they should have to deal with alone.