Students encouraged to wear uniform inside out for mental health initiative

Students encouraged to wear uniform inside out for mental health initiative

'Inside Out Day' initiative coincides with Children’s Mental Health Week and is being launched in memory of Jenny Jackson, who died in 2016

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Jo (left), Janie and Julie with sister Jenny (second right), who died in 2016
Jo (left), Janie and Julie with sister Jenny (second right), who died in 2016

Jewish schoolchildren are being encouraged to wear their uniforms inside out in support of a mental health campaign launched by a woman whose sister took her own life nearly four years ago.

Jenny Jackson, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had just turned 40 when she died in 2016.

Now Jo Novick, from north London, together with her other sisters, Julie Borlant and Janie Jackson-Spillman, are urging schools and mental health organisations to support Inside Out Day on Thursday 6 February, with the message that how a person looks might not reflect how they are feeling.

Speaking about the initiative, which coincides with Children’s Mental Health Week, Jo, 48, said: “It’s a simple way of making us all stop and think about how someone may be looking OK on the outside, but on the inside they may be feeling sad or worried.

“People always think others look great, but actually inside they might be suffering. It’s also a way of getting children to be kinder and think of others, because no one really knows how someone else is feeling.”

Since the launch this month, Jo, a mum of four, said she has received “the most unbelievable response” with more than 30 schools across the UK signing up to support the campaign.

The idea is one that Jo felt would be a fitting tribute to her sister, whose death came “as a shock to everybody”.

She recalled: “Jenny had suffered with bipolar disorder since her 20s. There were times when she was was suffering with her illness and times when she was fine. Just before her 40th birthday she was feeling a bit low, but no one knew how she was suffering. We all thought she was doing fine.”

In the months following the tragedy, Jo was put in contact with If U Care Share Foundation, which supports families affected by suicide. “They had an Inside Out For Suicide Day a few years ago and while the concept was different, just getting people to open up and talk, it was one that really resonated with me.

“Over the last few years, I have heard about others who have tragically lost their lives – teenagers, children, people I know at work and so on. I just wanted to do something that could help.”

As she thought about her idea, Jo came to realise how social media can affect emotional wellbeing, especially among younger people, and how it may only show one side of a person’s life. “Social media helps disguise how someone else is doing. It can show someone leading a wonderful life, when actually they might not be.

“I’m letting children know that it’s OK to feel this way, but go and talk to someone they feel comfortable talking to and don’t hide the way you are feeling.”



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