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Who is Miff Martinek

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Who is Miff Martinek

About five or six years ago, I started volunteering with the Samaritans. It was something that I thought I would do on the side to make me feel like I could give back to the world. Looking back, it was something that really changed my life.

Soon after, I became a coach and started working particularly with schools. I took the expertise in strength and conditioning that I gained from being a coach and this influence that I’ve had from being a Samaritan, and I started to combine mental well-being with the physical well-being that I was used to doing.

From that, the mentoring program that I run and work with schools today was born.

We cover:

  • When did you launch?

  • Why is mental health in schools so important?

  • How does This Is Me mentoring work?

  • How can a school get involved?

When did you launch?

So, This Is Me has only been around for, well, it’s been around longer than it feels with COVID under our belts. But I ran my first mentoring program two years ago, and since then, it’s been steadily growing.

I started off just having some conversations with schools to see if there was room for the kind of mentoring program that I offer. And it turned out that there was.

Last year, I began to work with a few different schools. It was really incredible to see something that I felt was just natural conversational skills and self-awareness blossom. These skills are foundational, but they’re quite often missing in how young people are talking about…

I hate to say mental health because it can put a shade onto what it might be, but yeah, how they talk about mental health. They were talking about it in a way that is constructive and useful.

The program was allowing them to develop an awareness about their own mental health and be able to talk freely and openly and comfortably about the mental health of their friends, peers, and those around them.

Why is mental health in schools so important?

There's some awareness now that there's been a problem with how we talk about mental health, not only in our young people but throughout society. Recently, there's been a lot more effort into understanding what mental health actually is, what it means, and why raising awareness about it is so important.

But I think what’s happened along the way is that we’ve opened a sort of Pandora’s Box. We’ve been talking about having that awareness. “Let’s raise awareness, let’s raise awareness!” But we don’t actually know how to have a conversation about it.

So, somewhere along the line, we’ve gone from “let’s talk about mental health,” which is great, to “how do we actually do that?” How do we do it in a constructive way where we’re not just putting a label on it? “Here’s your diagnosis, your medicine, and treatment.” We’re stepping a little back from that.

We all have mental health; it always fluctuates. It can be good one day and a little bit worse the next day, maybe better the day after that. We go through this process of mental health ebbing and flowing. And that is what we do with every element of our health.

But what's been happening with mental health is we're getting sort of stuck with a label. And then we're struggling to get past that.

I think it would be more helpful for young people to know how to have a bad day, have a bad week, a bad couple of weeks even, and be able to talk about those small things as they build up. And then they’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed, feeling like they need medical intervention.

If they learn to manage these challenges when they’re small, they don’t end up with this big, overwhelming mental health crisis that we seem to be talking about a lot, particularly when it comes to teens.

How does This Is Me mentoring work?

So, the program that we have is not just a training program but a structure for how to make mentoring work.

I’m not coming in and saying that I invented mentoring. We all know what a mentor is; we all have ideas of what a good one is and a bad one is. But what a lot of schools struggle with is getting a mentoring program that actually makes a difference and has an impact.

A lot of the schools I’ve spoken to have started mentoring programs that kind of petered out or didn’t gain much traction or didn’t make much of a difference other than somebody waving at you as you go through school.

That in itself is a nice thing, but it doesn’t really have a measurable impact.

What I’ve done with This Is Me is taken some really key, fundamental tools that we train to older people in the schools. We talk about mental health.

We get them talking really openly about challenges that they perhaps have faced and using those experiences to become very aware of how they can have a constructive, helpful conversation with someone younger.

And we help them talk about it without necessarily giving them advice or giving them the answers but actually helping them work out how to empower someone younger than them.

That’s the bulk of our training. Along with that, we help the staff and the well-being team within the school to create the structure around that sort of mentoring.

And it starts in that first assembly where we discuss how to talk about mentoring, how to encourage pupils to be a mentor, and even trickier, how to encourage a younger pupil to want a mentor.

So we talk about how you frame it, how you structure it, and how you actually roll that out through the years. It’s initially a term’s worth of training, but we look at how they can continue for the long term and how it can become embedded in their school’s culture to change the way mentors and mentees feel about it.

The most important bit for the teachers and those measuring it is that I do a whole heap of measurable conversations and quizzes. I work with the pupils to understand their well-being, mental health awareness, and comfort in talking about it. We look at where it is to start with and where we get to through the program.

The results that we’re seeing are absolutely fantastic! You can see the language and the awareness and that lightbulb moment coming through with pupils as they realize they can actually talk about this stuff.

They don’t need to feel overly protective of what’s going on. It doesn’t have to feel super, super private, and they can feel really confident in saying, “maybe I’m not okay on this day, but I know exactly how to make myself feel better down the line.” They learn how to ask for help and how to feel confident in themselves.

Making something that is actually measurable is a key bit of the program that we run through This Is Me.

How can a school get involved?

So, if you’re a school looking at your well-being strategy and looking for something that’s a little bit more long-term rather than a short well-being event, and you want to find a method of making an impact that is going to last through the years, then we would love to hear from you.

If you want to explore how pupil mentoring can improve wellbeing in your school within the Hereford and Wiltshire area, I'd love to hear from you.

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