Youth Work

Mental? You’re kidding!

We already know that 1 in 10 children will battle a mental health condition, but what are the reasons, and what’s being done to improve the situation?

This week there have been some high profile articles about mental health issues in the UK. On Tuesday’s This Morning, distressed parents were calling the show about some really disturbing bullying incidents that were taking place. The video can be viewed here. In the video, a mother informs the panel on the programme that her son was bullied so badly that he told her he wanted to kill himself. The mother was understandably distraught. If this was not upsetting enough, we learn that the school are claiming there is not a bullying issue in their school.

I imagine they probably wear blinkers as every school I have worked in or with has some form of bullying. Here’s a shock moment, folks! Bullying is part of life. It happens. In the workplace, backstabbing. In the community, family feuds. In every part of life, somebody will have an issue with somebody else, will hold certain views and values that determine their perspective of the way others live, dress, compose themselves, and we must open our eyes to it. Bullying is not acceptable. ‘Schools [in particular] should tackle bullying at the earliest opportunity and not allow it to escalate to a point where a pupil suffers emotional or physical distress’ ( What sort of future are we determining if we don’t teach or even accept that bullying is wrong?

Interestingly, also in the media this week, a call to Ofsted (the school’s inspectorate in the UK) has requested that mental health should be a key part of their inspection standards following Prime Minister Theresa May’s acknowledgement of the inadequate mental health care provision we have. I find it fascinating that they say in the report that teachers should be trained to identify mental health conditions. This on top of their already pressured workload causing one in four of them to struggle with a mental health issue themselves.

Support staff who may already be relatively experienced in this area and come at a cheaper price (presumably as they are deemed less important, qualified, or are less valued than teachers) could actually be more ideal. Without a teaching schedule to adhere to, they can focus on improving the mental health and overall happiness of the school. This must be  of utmost importance. Everyone bangs on about them being the happiest days of our lives. Why are we not doing more to understand how we can improve the mental wellbeing of those living through them?

For many young people, school life consists of getting up at a biologically unnatural time, being forced to learn subjects that they are not interested in and may never have an interest in, whilst (in some cases being bullied and) dealing with personal problems at home, such as being a Young Carer. Children need the opportunity for some escapism now and again.

Article 31 of the UNCRC says that ‘Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities’, all of which would help improve the mental stability of many. Is there a need to return to a time of bricklaying courses in school, social studies, and the basics of life such as how to deal with sewing buttons on? These are the sorts of skills that surely promote confidence building and more awareness and preparation for life?

A personal plug comes in here in the form of Relax Kids. As a Relax Kids coach, and it works for adults and children, we run through a seven-step structured programme allowing people to have fun, deal with fears, and ultimately learn to relax and understand their feelings. If the government is wanting to improve mental health in schools, then using the qualified coaches that make up the company has to be the next crucial step, doesn’t it? You’ll notice I’ve said it’s suitable for adults too. That’s because it is. Adults and children alike need ‘down’ time, a chance to relax, have fun, and reaffirm to themselves that they are great and don’t need to succumb to the hands of bullies or even inner demons. This is what we work on with the Relax Kids programme.

Whether you are an adult or a child reading this, think carefully now. When was the last time that you stopped what you are doing and just did nothing? When did you have ‘me’ time? When did you sit quietly, perhaps listen to your favourite music, read a book, or maybe write? How about a favourite magazine? When did you last go out for a drink with your friends? Really, when did you take time out and say ‘this time is now my time?’ When did you ask yourself how you feel, how you REALLY feel and say ‘enough is enough. I am better than this’? It can be a bit unnerving and difficult, but it IS possible to understand and alter your mental state of mind and wellbeing. Sometimes you need to find the right support to do so, but in doing so, it can make you a stronger, happier, and healthier person.

On that note, let’s start making stronger, happier, and healthier people now. Let’s start with the young people in our school’s who seem to be so unhappy that their future’s, to them at least, appear bleak and colourless. Life is full of colour, full of wonder, and can be full of happiness, but it takes for us to open our eyes and work together to get there.




Leave a Reply