Health professionals and Government policies talk a lot about supporting mental illness and according to the 2016 Mental Health Task Force Report, the cost to the UK economy is estimated at £105 billion each year.
The latest stats say that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives and the UK Government plans to further increase the amount of monies put into mental health services with a record £11.7 billion spent in 2015 alone.
The new report recommends providing mental health care to a further 70,000 children and an additional 30,000 new parents across the UK and plan to ensure hospitals have mental health services in emergency departments for people of all ages.
Now I don’t know about you but this evident mental illness epidemic frightens me
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive, Young Minds Charity says:
“It’s staggering that so many children and young people are in need of specialist mental health care. These figures should act as a wakeup call.”
As a person, as a parent, as a professional and as a nation, we should be worried. If the 1 in 4 stat is accurate, you can look forward to the utter devastation of mental illness within your family unit at some point in your life. Sat around a business board room table, look around you because 1 in 4 of your people will experience poor mental health at some point too. Incidentally, next time you receive hospital care, 1 in 4 of your health professionals will face it too. That’s before we even start to think about those people in our community who educate and nurture our children and their future.
According to the Mental Health Services Data Set, 235,000 young people in England were in contact with NHS Mental Health Services at the end of June 2016 and among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years.
In order to further support a health care system that is bursting at the seams, our education system employ school counsellors and focus on raising awareness and better educating our community about spotting and managing the early signs of mental illness as a way of reducing the catastrophic and life changing consequences of mental illness. But is this enough?
We need to bring focus and address the wider context
The world today is full of change, challenge and uncertainty and with that comes a lot of stress, financial constraints, exhaustion, relationship breakdowns and burnout. We know that the pressures of today’s modern world can reach a tipping point and before we know it, we’re no longer able to cope and become mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.
Prevention in the truest sense is about practicing healthy behaviours and building in protective barriers that can prevent or reduce the risk of stress, burnout and poor mental health. As individuals, parents, professionals and members of our community, how focused on doing this are we? Understanding how to maintain good mental health should be in everyone’s vocabulary. For example, we all know about the “5 a day” rule to ensure we all enjoy a healthy diet. Why is it that we can’t reach the same level of awareness and knowledge when it comes to looking after our mental health? Spotting the early signs of mental illness is great but we’re talking about the analogy “prevention is better than cure.”
Food for thought 1: Start young and we start to break the cycle
Let’s start arming our future generations with some ammunition to guard them against the uncertain future. The Education system calls this “early intervention” focusing around counselling and support workers. The problem here is the words “early intervention” reflect the fragility of the current system. Early intervention is about minimising the mental health issues to stop them worsening. Apart from a smattering of ad-hoc assemblies and PSHE lessons, too little is put in place to skill up our children with the tools to prevent it in the first place. For example; research shows that 55% of children who have been bullied, later develop depression as adults. Imagine if we could better support our future generations by teaching them proactive ways to effectively manage their mental, emotional and physical health to affect more control over their relationships, personal success and also their life?
Food for thought 2: Teach future generations how to lead themselves is good for business
The current economic climate is tough and there is absolutely no reason to think that it’s going to get better. Leading people through times of change is both a curse and a privilege and it’s absolutely critical that our future leaders are strong, confident and authentic with the ability to navigate change and develop strong and trusting relationships with those around them. The reality is that developing the right skillset, mind-set and resources to effectively manage mental, emotional and physical health and enabling high levels of self-awareness and critical thinking skills in our young people allows us to future proof what it is to be a good leader in our economy too.
Food for thought 3: Resilient kids start with resilient parents, carers and teachers
In Jersey, statistics show that the number of sick days taken by teachers has doubled year on year and according to the Modern Family Index 2016 Report, 1 in 3 parents report being burnt out often or all the time. Research by local charity Resilience Matters reports that 40% of parents surveyed, suffer from severe anxiety and reported experiencing extreme difficulties at work, taking care of things at home and getting along with people. This data in itself shows the nature of parenting highlights vulnerability. According to the 1001 Critical Days Government Manifesto, too many children don’t have the start in life they need and the early years of a child’s life are a crucial period of change and a key moment for brain development. The Manifesto documents how love and nurture by caring adults is hard wired into the brains of children and if we don’t intervene now, this will affect not just this generation of children and young people but also the next.
Managing poor mental health affects us all and supporting those parents and professionals who are the guardians of our future leaders is absolutely paramount. We simply cannot become complacent and sit back and just watch for the signs. Imagine if we could support parents, carers and teachers with the skills to prevent poor mental health and in turn, they pass on these skills to their children?
The Challenge – Less talk and more preventative action
Undoubtedly, today’s children face a lot more pressure to succeed in the rat race of life and this is reflected by an education system intent on academic achievement and there really isn’t much time left in their school day to prepare them fully for what lies ahead. Arming our children, parents and professionals with the knowledge to spot poor mental health in themselves and others is hugely valuable and important in today’s challenging environment but as a community we need to move beyond this and start looking at ways to prevent poor mental health in the first place.
In a bid to buck the current system and readdress the balance towards taking skill based preventative action against poor mental health, the local charity Resilience Matters decided to go out there and start doing it themselves for our children and their future.
Peter McLinton, Vice Chair – Resilience Matters Charity says:
“The charity’s plans have a strong affinity with Jersey’s commitment towards the UK government’s 1001 Critical Days manifesto. The manifesto acknowledges that those first early years of a child’s life are absolutely crucial. The charity aims to support the development of “home grown” resilient children by rolling out skill based workshops. Our headline projects are designed to support both parents, young people and those working in childcare and early years to develop resilience in themselves and others.”
A partnership with Haute Vallee School
We joined forces with Haute Vallee Secondary School to pilot a pioneering programme to take prevention of poor mental health and self-leadership skills to a new level, whilst developing attitudes and skills for personal success, lifelong learning and employability. The children and teachers are undertaking the Young Resilient Leader programme in their own time which is testament to their commitment towards tackling the status quo when it comes to preventing poor mental health.
Maxine Griffiths, Assistant Head Teacher, Haute Vallee School says:
“I do hope this is the start of a lasting collaboration, bridging the gap between schools, the workplace and supporting both students and teachers to better manage their mental health by developing the skills of resilient leaders.”
Resilient kids start with resilient parents
The local charity Resilience Matters offers workshops to all parents, carers and grandparents to teach practical transferable skills to better support families manage their emotional, mental and physical health. Over 200 parents have joined the workshops so far to learn transferable skills to better manage stress, understand their emotions, tackle difficult issues and new ways to overcome adversity. The workshops align with the recent States of Jersey Mental Health Policy Review which emphasises the importance of building a more resilient community.
“I took the course a year ago, last week a friend of mine started the course unknowing I had done the same one! Our conversation made me think about the changes it has made, everything I do and say has been affected in a great way... I make choices to avoid certain outcomes, am more aware of those around me and their feelings, change how I use my day so I can achieve more! A year on I still refer to my notes and by doing this I become more and more resilient! It is one of the best courses I have attended - thank you!” - Linda G
In line with the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, Resilience Matters believes that the quality of inter-parental relationships, specifically how parents communicate and relate to each other is increasingly recognised as a primary influence on children’s long term mental health and future life chances. Our workshops strengthen and support families to improve the outcomes for children across our community. The workshops are delivered across weekdays, evenings and Saturdays and can sign up through www.resiliencematters.co.uk
Boosting support for Jersey’s children’s workforce
Following a successful pilot programme, Resilience Matters charity is currently looking for essential funding to support a more empathic and agile workforce, better able to manage stress and manage risk and child welfare. The Early Years and Childcare sector alone supports thousands of local children and the programme promote transferable skills that can be passed on to the children to create a more conducive environment for learning, behaviour and emotional wellbeing.
Fiona Vacher, Executive Director, Jersey Child Care Trust says:
“With one of the highest rates of working women in the developed world, a resilient children’s workforce is crucial to the success of Jersey’s future. I’m convinced that developing these skills within child care will positively impact the development and wellbeing of thousands of local children.”
Mental health issues are extremely complex and enduring. In contrast, educating people with the skills to maintain good mental health is far easier, simpler and much more cost effective. As a person, as a parent, as a professional and for our future, we need to take notice and start to take action!
Want to know more or get involved?
All Resilience Matters projects are self-funded through a combination of corporate sponsorship and foundation grants. If you’d like to become part of a social movement to better support our local community, get in touch.
Resilience Matters was launched in 2015 in response to the SOJ Mental Health Strategy Review. With a wider focus on improving mental health and looking at different approaches to better support services around the prevention and early intervention against poor mental health within our local community.
We define resilience as the ability to bounce forward from stress, change and uncertainty and form strong social networks to move forward. The Resilience Matter’s mission is to develop a more resilient community through accessible and skill based community workshops.
Our objective is to work collaboratively with the States of Jersey, partner referral agencies, schools and other charities to take a child/family centred approach to better manage the risk factors faced by our children and their future.