Challenging Taboos: Mental Health Awareness

An Arts project Leeds, United Kingdom

Challenging Taboos: Mental Health Awareness

Theatre Toolbox are heading into schools across the North to smash the stigma around mental health by exploring the topic through drama!

New stretch target

In the case of overfunding, we will ensure that the project is taken to more schools in the month following Mental Health Awareness week. As we have already had to turn schools away due to lack of time available during the project week, I know there are plenty of pupils who are ready to partake in this workshop should we have the funds to continue the project for longer!

 Challenging taboos: Mental Health

The 8th – 12th of February has been declared Children’s mental health awareness week. During this week, we aim to reach at least 10 different KS2 and KS3 classes, facilitating free drama workshops that explore mental health and emotional well being.

Project Aim

To work with young people to challenge the stigma around mental health by discussing and exploring the topic and how it can be dealt with using dramatic games, exercises and workshops. 

Why mental health?

The fun, innocent and playful nature of children often misleads us to the assumption that mental health problems only arise when we become adults. However, the challenges facing young people today can often seem completely overwhelming. Children everywhere struggle to deal with bereavement, bullying, family breakdowns and more. The effects of this can be detrimental to their growth leading to depression, anxiety, addiction and self-harm.

Half of those with lifetime mental health issues first experience symptoms by the age of 14. Depression and anxiety in teenagers has increased by 75% in the past 25 years and now 3 children in every classroom have diagnosable mental health problems.

Our concerns and the concerns of this project lie in the personal, social and emotional development of children. Children are less likely to suffer from serious mental health problems in later life if they receive support at an early age. Our mission is to encourage children to talk openly about their feelings, whether that is with a parent, carer, teacher or friend in order for small problems not to grow into bigger, uncontrollable ones in the future. One of the most important life skills we can teach children is to know when to ask for help and support. If a child broke their arm or scraped their knee, they would seek help. There should be no difference between physical and mental injury and it is our aim to teach our younger generations that their emotional wellbeing is equally as important as physical pain.


  • To provide a safe space to openly discuss mental health.
  • To encourage discussion of personal issues surrounding the topic and explore these using drama.
  • To give the participants opportunities to rehearse dealing with problems surrounding mental health that they or their peers may encounter.

The plan

We hope to facilitate 10 half-day FREE workshops with 10 different KS2/KS3 classes throughout children’s mental health awareness week. Through fun games and warm-up exercises, we will establish a safe, trustworthy and creative environment where young people can express their feelings and opinions in an open and non-judgemental space. Building on this, we will use drama exercises and workshops to discuss and explore their ideas about mental health and problems they may have encountered. During the workshop, participants will be given the opportunity to role-play real life situations in a supportive environment, learning and rehearsing how to recognise mental health problems and building the confidence to deal with them.

We're not asking to be paid a theatre practitioner's salary or even to cover the wages we'll miss by taking time off of our jobs. All we hope to do is cover the cost of travel, insurance, workshop materials and a follow up leaflet to distribute to the pupils at the end of each workshop to ensure that they know the support groups, helplines and charities available to them. At theatre toolbox, we know that mental health is a topic worth discussing and one not discussed half enough. Please help us to support the emotional health and wellbeing of our younger generation by pledging anything you can spare!