What Mindfulness isn’t…

 It is difficult to ignore this topic as there seem regular references in much of what we read on the subject of mental health. As defined by an all party UK parliamentary group report on the subject:

“Mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening in the present
moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness.”


“Mindfulness has a role to play in tackling our mental health crisis in which roughly one in three families include someone who is mentally ill. Up to 10% of the UK adult population will experience symptoms of depression in any given week. This crisis is largely going untreated with only one in three of those with mental illness receiving treatment.”

It is clearly therefore not a subject we can or should ignore. However, before reviewing the benefits and limitations of such an approach it might be beneficial to know, given some pretty extravagant claims by some, what mindfulness isn’t.

And we believe there is no better place to start than this excellent article (see here) by a mental health service user appearing in her equally excellent blog (see here)

We hope to follow this up from a UK professional deeply involved in researching and evaluating the effective use of mindfulness.


Enjoy the links!!


John Nash in his Own Words

On 23rd May 2015 John Forbes Nash Jr. and his amazing wife, Alisha Nash,died in a tragic traffic accident. John Forbes Nash Jr was awarded the Nobel prize for economic science in 1994 and “immortalized” by the popular Hollywood film, Beautiful Mind (starring Russell Crowe) released in 1988.

There are, however, a number of significant absences in his life story as told by that film (most significantly his son, Johnny’s,  personal battle against mental health problems – maybe because the outcomes have not been so positive ) and misleading representations of his own struggle against mental illness (most notably the role of medication in Nash’s recovery).

For this reason we thought it useful to share this video (in two parts) where John Forbes Nash Jr speaks in his own words about his career, his family, and his battle against mental illness. We hope you enjoy it!!

The Importance of Memory in the Classroom

Just a quick plug for the free workshop on memory I will be doing at Oxford House, Barcelona this coming Friday. It is a part of a regular series of free workshops Oxford House host in order to support qualified teachers in Barcelona and surro1369847707_4085_memory-1unding areas. 

To be honest, I am a little worried about doing the subject justice (the subject is such a large one), relating it to the work Fiona and I do with regards to social inclusion, and attempting to provide some practical tips. All in 45 minutes!!

I will try my best and it would be great to see you there. There will be time at the end to have a chat about our mental healthy friendly initiative and whole class methodology in general.

Those wishing to attend should confirm with Oxford House

More Excellent Winners of Mental Health Friendly Lesson Plan Competition.

WP_20151023_011Over the last two weeks it has been a great pleasure to meet more of the mental health lesson plan competition winners. Paul Connell travelled up from Tarragona for the day with his wife, Helen, to officially receive second prize, a free on-line teacher training course, donated by Oxford House. Paul and Helen can be seen in the centre of the picture (taken in the gardens of Oxford House). Paul received his award from Duncan Foord,  Director of Training at Oxford House (on Paul’s right in the photo). Paul is a very experienced teacher from Escola Idiomas Tarragona (formerly Inlingua) and it was a real delight to talk with him and Helen about his excellent lesson plan and our plans to take the Mental Health Friendly project forward. In fact, with the agreement of Oxford House, Paul chose an on-line course in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) and generously donated the course to a teacher friend who works in the Sate Sector, where CLIL has taken on a real importance over the last few years.

WP_20151029_001Then there was the pleasure of meeting Anna Conway a teacher here in Barcelona at Merit School. Anna won third prize which was an extremely generous pack of teaching materials donated by Macmillan Education. Anna and I can be seen in Macmillan’s office  where she kindly popped in to receive her prize and talk about the project. Anna is also studying Public Health here in Barcelona so it made it an particularly interesting conversation for me.

Hopefully, we will be able to share all the excellent lesson plans with you in the new year, when working with the winners, Macmillan and La Federación de Salut Mental de Catalunya, we can ensure these excellent lessons have maximum impact inside and outside the classroom.

A really big thank you to everyone who participated in the competition.

Lesson Plan Competition Winner

WP_20151002_004I had the great pleasure of meeting our lesson plan competition winner, Elen Evans, in the offices of Macmillan Education, Barcelona last Friday. See Picture left.

In the following weeks we want to share all the competition winners with you.

Elen, a teacher at International House Barcelona, has kindly agreed to help make her wonderful lesson plan more widely available for all teachers and we are working with La Federación de Salut Mental de Catalunya and Macmillan to maximise the impact of that Lesson, so as to increase awareness of mental health issues inside the classroom and fight against stigma.

Elen will be joining us at a celebration of World Mental Health day in Valls, Catalunya on the 10th of October, where, as part of a whole day of activities, the British Consul will present Elen with the award for best lesson plan.

Our enormous thanks again to Hoteles Catalonia for donating a weekend in a hotel in Sevilla as first prize

Video Recording of Mental Health Friendly Roundtable Now Available on Youtube

We are pleased to announce that a recording of the roundtable discusion on Mental Health and ELT is now available on Youtube. The roundtable was held 29th May 2015 at Oxford House, Barcelona. We participated in the roundtable along with Julian Jahanpour of Macmillan Education, Santi Bonillo of the Fundació Marianao, and Jose Maria Hernández Lopez, Expert in Mental Health and Community Language Teaching. The meeting was chaired by the Director of Oxford House Training, Duncan Foord, who also explained the key role Oxford House are playing in promoting socially inclusive classrooms.

A huge thanks to Federico Gobartt (a student at Oxford House Language School) and his friend Pol Alfaro for the time taken preparing, shooting and editing the video. We are extremely grateful for your enormous contribution to making this discussion widely available to so many more teachers and students, who I am sure will find the discussion as enjoyable and useful as we did..

Reach Out: Resources for Helping Young People with Issues of Mental Health

We wanted to share the excellent website ReachOut Professionals with you. It is an Australian based website designed to help reachoutprofessionals raise awareness of mental health issues among young people and help those same young people build resilience to the many stressful experiences they have faced, are facing and will face.  In their own words:

“ReachOut Professionals provides recommendations and advice for youth support workers, health workers and education professionals on a range of online interventions, tools and resources that can be used to support young people experiencing mental health difficulties and to build young people’s wellbeing and resilience.

There are many tools and resources there for teachers. We have only just started  making our way around the site but would particularly recommend: “Destigmatising mental health difficulties” , “Embracing the F…. Word” , and “Supporting LGBTIQ Students”.

If you use  any of the resources, please let us know how you get on; how effective they were, how well the class responded, whether you would recommend them, and whether you would suggest certain adaptations before using them in the English Language Training classroom.