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Case study: Checking in with yourself and building mental fitness
Becoming proactive in preventing mental health decline for their learners is extremely important to the Shrewsbury College Group – which is why they’ve come on board with Fika. Since signing up in June 2021, Shrewsbury College Group has had 708 registered users, who have completed 4,347 exercises, earned 128 certificates, and delivered 363 hours of Fika mental fitness training!
Leading the charge for mental fitness education is Poppy Robinson, Preparation Routes Teacher and Progression Specialist at the college. Here, Poppy speaks to us about her experience with Fika and how it’s being used in the college. We also speak to learners at the college Lily, Connor, and Jasmin about their experiences with Fika, and how it has been helping them to navigate the stresses of college life.
Becoming proactive, not reactive
We asked Poppy why she felt coming on board with Fika was important, and she told us: “Mental health has become such a huge part of everybody's life. There's been a global increase in awareness and a lot of crisis management resources, but there’s not much out there like Fika, who are doing something about it on an everyday basis. As soon as I heard about Fika, I thought ‘yes, that's exactly what we’re missing!’. I‘m so passionate about mental health as it’s so important, and I really think Fika and mental fitness is the way forward.
“We introduced Fika in our hour-long tutorials at the college, showing all learners how to download it and get started with the courses. We also have weekly workshop sessions for independent learning, where I ask the learners to have 10 minutes of Fika time where they do some exercises for their mental fitness.
"There’s one learner in particular who absolutely loves Fika – he does the exercises every day, engages with the daily quotes, and he just gets it. So many learners have taken it all on board and run with it, I think because the 5-minute chunks of information are manageable and so accessible.”
The learner mental fitness journey
Lily, Connor, and Jasmin are learners at Shrewsbury College who are using Fika to build their mental fitness skills. When asked why she wanted to use Fika, Lily answered: “When the college suggested using it, I thought it was a good opportunity to learn and try something new. It’s going really well too – I like watching the videos to hear about other people’s experiences and answering the quiz questions!”
Connor explained: “I started using it because it was recommended in class – I really like doing the courses, especially the connection course. I also like answering the questions about what I can achieve during the week and how I can keep improving.”
Jasmin said: “Our class teacher recommended it and I wanted to see what it was all about. I wanted to work on my mental health and thought why not, it will be a good way to start my mornings. I really like the weekly check in to see if your mental fitness has improved because it helps me to see what I can work on in the coming week.”
Keeping well with mental fitness
Poppy also explained to us how she feels mental fitness education is key for maintaining our wellbeing: “No matter what, you’re going to face difficulties in life, and so your mental fitness is about how you respond to these events and your resilience. I think often people see it as you’re well, and then all of a sudden you're at a crisis point, when actually you’re constantly dipping and having to bounce back. Having the tools to use when things aren’t going as well is so important for staying well, and Fika provides those.
“I first learnt about mindfulness a few years ago, and I think the strategies Fika teaches remind me of that. But it goes further, it helps to ingrain it into your thought processes and become automatic. It’s so easy to go through days and think you’re okay, especially being so busy as a teacher. Between the start and end of the day, so many different things happen, and you can go along mindlessly without checking in with yourself. I think it’s that checking in that helps maintain good mental fitness and prevent a serious mental health issue from occurring.
“Before using Fika, there wasn’t really an opportunity to have reflective time because other things quickly become priorities, so having that reminder on your phone reminds you to check in with yourself and how well you’re feeling. I have a personal interest in mental health, so I think just having that simple reminder alone is so important.”
Making a difference
Lily feels that mental fitness training has really improved her social skills. She told us: “Mental fitness training has changed how I approach things. I used to be quite negative, but now I go around speaking to others with an open mind. I've been confident, positive, and don’t avoid people anymore. When I’ve had a bad day, I try to use some of the techniques Fika teaches you, like the breathing exercises, and it really has been helping me. I’ve seen a big improvement in my wellbeing!”
Connor has seen an improvement in his confidence since using Fika: “The biggest benefit of undertaking Fika’s courses has been learning how to handle situations by myself, I have more confidence to speak to someone if I do need help. It has made me want to be more involved in things and not just allow myself to be left out. Using Fika has also made me more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and taught me how to not let things affect me as much.”
Jasmin thinks that everyone should be working on their mental fitness and said: “Mental fitness is all about helping to control and improve your wellbeing. I think everyone should do mental fitness exercises a few times a day to help improve themselves. For me, the motivation course is so useful because it focuses on doing little things to lead you to do the big things. I also really like the communication, stress and positivity courses. The lessons I’ve learned from Fika have given me skills that I need to handle difficult situations now and in the future.”
The big question
When asked if they would recommend Fika to other colleges, Poppy said: “Absolutely, 100%. When it’s not ingrained in the curriculum, it’s easily forgotten about. But I think it’s the most important part of education – because if a learner isn’t feeling mentally well, they're not going to perform well academically. The pandemic highlighted how important this is and the curriculum needs to reflect that – I think it’s essential if we’re going to be giving young people the best foundation to start their lives.”
It was also a big yes from Lily, who said: “Definitely – it has really helped me. It shows you how and where you can improve. I think it should be shared around universities, colleges and schools more widely, and they should make it part of the curriculum. Especially with COVID, a lot of people have been struggling, and I think it’s really good for learners’ mental health. It’s also good for employability, because if you’re going for an interview then you can use your mental fitness skills to show you’re confident and ready to work hard.”
Another yes from Connor, who said: “100%! Fika helps people get the support they need for their mental fitness. It has loads of different courses that can suit a variety of needs, so if you don’t like one exercise, there are always others you can do.”
Finally, it was a resounding yes from Jasmin, who said: “Yes, I definitely would as it’s helped me and helped a lot of others. I think it should be talked about a lot more – in secondary school, we never talked about mental fitness, but I think it’s key to staying in a good state of mind, especially during exams!”
For more information on implementing Fika and evidence of the impact it’s having across FE, visit our Fika homepage.
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