Yes, I believe we are. I am sure we are in many ways but what I am talking about here is the mental health of the children and young people in the UK. This might be highlighted as a result of COVID but this is actually something that has been getting worse and worse for over a decade and still there is resistance to change! I know this because we work with schools and local authorities and although they know there is a problem there is resistance to look at the problem differently and spend the time needed to make these changes. We need to, after all if what we are already doing was working so well why is this problem getting worse.
There is often a lot of talk about how resilient children are but the truth is they are not as resilient as we would like to think, 75% off all mental health disorders are started by the age of 18 so the younger they get the education and support they need the better.
Lets look at some statistics to really highlight the severity of what has been happening –
Suicide is the most common cause of death for those aged 10-19
ChildLine counselling about suicidal thoughts and feelings reached the highest ever levels with 24,549 sessions in 2017/1
So, what have we been doing?
Triage! We have been waiting and ignoring these challenges until they reach breaking point and then we will provide therapy. Well, due to this system CAMHS now has an 8-month waiting list and many children and young people are not getting the support they need. This can’t carry on. We should not behave like this, this is like us feeding our children nothing but sweats and crisps until they are overweight and diabetic and THEN trying to do something about it. Mental health needs to be taken seriously and prevention, like with physical health, is key to this. Preventative mental health practises in schools could be done in 10mins a day, this would make a huge impact but an excuse I hear time and time again is ‘we don’t have time’, yes that’s right all the parents out there this really is how badly the education system is run.
And it is not the teachers doing, or the heads, it is the system. The system they are forced to work in with unrealistic targets and more hours of teaching a year to do than they can even fit into the school hours they teach! So, no they don’t have time. Parents (for the most part and teachers (for the most part) don’t go into raising children lightly, mostly people want to raise happy, healthy children and teachers want to teach and inspire these generations. But, it has become a struggle and it will take some unravelling.
Another problem faced by many schools and local authorities is early intervention budget cuts that have been happening since 2013, without these vital fund’s things will struggle to change as quickly as they need to.
So, what can be done?
Stop the blame game! We are all in this together trying to do the best, so teachers STOP blaming parents and parents STOP blaming teachers! We all have a part to play in this so it is time we looked at that, our OWN part. Do not worry about other influences, there is nothing you can do about that.
Start being proactive instead of reactive, prevention is better than cure. We need to start building short, easy tools into the school day. Don’t panic, this is a far easier process than you might think. With a little training and support to teachers, quick and easy techniques can be seamlessly tied into lessons. The first step is the hardest, after that it becomes about building a habit. Parents, I know you can’t approach every situation with the time and care you would like to (I am a mother of 2 and I feel it to), but you can try to find little pockets. Maybe some parent coaching will be your first step to find out how to do this easily.
Find time to take the first steps, the rest will follow and flow. Remember, not everything at once this is a learning process for you and the children. Like anything it needs to be built in small, easy to manage steps. Once habits are established it will flow into your life like everything else.
Funding – HHG pledge 10%off all profits from our company to our not-for-profit sister company which we hope, in time will avoid such a dependence on funding and government for these much-needed changes.
So, get in touch if you are a school or parent and you think that you need a little help, advice or a plan of action to get going. Also, if you are a business or independent school that would like to help support us in our mission to provide this support for all. firstname.lastname@example.org