Jonny's story: my skydive got my students talking about mental health

In 2018, teachers Jonny Martin and Julie Rudd took on an amazing skydive challenge to fundraise for the Mental Health Foundation. Jonny tells why the experience was so special and how great it was as a tool to start conversations about mental health...

Focusing on mental health at school is so important

The past year at our school saw the creation of a Mental Health Action Group – 10 mental health first aid trained staff meeting monthly to see what we could do to help in addressing the emerging pattern of mental health problems in our young people. Our biggest goal was to see more students coming forwards to discuss their difficulties, mainly by reducing the stigma that’s attached to talking about mental health.

We delivered the usual assemblies, began discussion with tutor time activities, and also gained survey responses to see exactly what each group of students struggles with (social media, as we know, proved a unanimous stressor). Out of this we now have an ongoing student led action group, and a well‑staffed triage system allowing our students the choice of a mental health first aider to talk to when they feel able.

Deciding to do a skydive was a great idea

The group also wanted to do something 'big'. Discussions in school are great; pair these up with discussion at home and we felt we'd find some real success. This is where the idea of doing a sponsored skydive for the Mental Health Foundation came into play. We thought that students going home to tell parents about their teachers jumping out of a plane might just trigger the inevitable "Why?!".

We are lucky to be around a supportive network of staff, students, family and friends who contributed generously to our collection efforts. This support saw us raise over £1,300, admittedly more than we expected!

It was an amazing experience I’d highly recommend to anyone

The jump itself was incredible. 15,000 feet up in the air oddly seemed safe and not all that much higher than 1,000 feet! A whole minute of free-falling at 100+mph is pretty unforgettable, as are the views for miles around. We both had a surprisingly smooth landing too!

The jump though was really just a vessel to start conversations.

The final few days of the school year proved for us that it was a success. Having seen the video of the jump students first of all wanted to ask about it, but then engaged in conversation about why we did it and how they can look after their own mental wellbeing.

We hope this is the start of a culture of conversation at school, which is sure to benefit our students, and staff. We'd encourage anyone to do the same.

Sign up to skydive for the Mental health Foundation

There are days available throughout the year at over 20 different locations across the UK.

Click here to sign up for a skydive in 2019!

If you have any questions about doing a skydive or any other fundraising event, please contact our Events Team on 020 7803 1123 or email us at events@mentalhealth.org.uk.