The Clothesline Project came to Dulwich Pudong in September, championed by two Senior School students, Tommy L (Year 11) and Maggie W (Year 13). The aim is to break the stigma surrounding mental health. We applaud these two students for taking the initiative to make a difference in the wider community.
What is The Clothesline Project?
The Clothesline Project is a community activity where people come together to decorate t-shirts with empowering slogans. The t-shirts are then hung on clotheslines as a highly visible way of generating discussion and awareness. The first Clothesline Project took place in the United States in 1990 and has since spread around the globe with over 300 Clothesline projects featuring over 35,000 shirts.
There are three purposes of The Clothesline Project:
- Raise awareness that mental health issues affect us all
- Break the silence and stigma that often surround mental health issues
- Recognise and celebrate the people behind each mental health diagnosis
Inspired to action
Our two students were inspired to take action by a course they took over the summer at the Community Centre of Shanghai (CCS) for Teen Mental Health Advocates. The course is a new one which recognizes the unique power of teen voices to be catalysts for meaningful change.
Says Carrie Jones, Counseling Director at CCS, "Being a teen has never been easy and these last couple years have been especially rough in uncountable ways for many of us of all ages. CCS wanted to offer support and guidance to teens who are struggling with mental health or emotional well-being issues or who are worried about others in their lives who may be struggling."
The course attracted students from international schools all over Shanghai. One of the course presenters, Tonye Stuurman, shared her experience starting the Clothesline Project in South Africa. Tommy and Maggie were inspired to do the same for Dulwich Pudong.
Bringing it to DCSPD
After the course finished the two students got buy in from our Senior School faculty leaders then began working on the project within school in concert with CCS. They created a PowerPoint and presented it to their peers during a wellbeing lesson. They then organised a t-shirt painting session which took place during lunch on Thursday, 2 September to get everyone actively involved.
Dozens of shirts were created which are now hanging in our Senior School foyer just outside the Dining Hall.
Says Tommy L, "I wanted to find ways to break the stigma and help my friends and family express themselves without feeling embarrassed with what they have to say. With previous experience of losing people in my life, I think it’s really important for people to speak out for themselves and others in cases where it could result in danger. Knowing people with some of these issues encourages me to want to make a difference in the community."
Says Maggie W, "I thought that many of my peers would also enjoy learning about mental health issues and also would find it uplifting to participate in such a meaningful project. Furthermore, I thought it was extremely important to advocate for mental health as much as possible, so I can do my part to break the stigma around mental health issues."
The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive.
We’ve had resoundingly positive feedback.
"Many of my friends and fellow students came to me after the wellbeing session to say that they found it very inspiring," Maggie says, "and many of them showed this by supporting the painting session. They said they felt motivated and supported by the school after the painting session and everyone I asked said they enjoyed it! We’ve had resoundingly positive feedback."
Our student-advocates hope that The Clothesline Project will encourage the entire Dulwich Pudong community to become more open with how they are feeling and seek help if needed.
I hope people at Dulwich begin to prioritise their mental health on the same level as their physical health.
"Mental health issues effect all of us at some point in our lives and it shouldn’t be an embarrassment to speak out about it," Tommy says. "I hope people at Dulwich begin to prioritise their mental health on the same level as their physical health."
It is truly great to see our students taking ownership over their own wellbeing.
I am so proud to see these two students take action and make a difference.
Says Head of Senior School Alison Derbyshire, "Enhancing the wellbeing of our students is central to our philosophy of putting students first and there is no better way to do that than for students to advocate for each other and help each other. I am so proud to see these two students take action and make a difference not only in the Senior School but in the larger Dulwich community."
The t-shirts contributed by our community will stay on display in our school for a few weeks before they move on to their next destination. However, the project leaves us a lasting legacy in the form of ribbons written by students as part of their wellbeing lesson. These ribbons will hang in our Senior School foyer as a permanent reminder of hope and encouragement.