A real-life scenario (amended to ensure confidentiality)
When interviewed, a mother concluded a moving description of concerns about her adopted daughter’s mental health by saying, ‘We thought that love was all that was needed to put things right. But love is not enough.’ The impact of her affectionate, yet despairing, poignant remark has remained with me.
Things can only get better?
The subject of provision regarding mental health has been and remains a fraught and troubled topic with many issues requiring to be investigated and settled in a satisfactory manner. I hold it to be a scandal that so many young persons are denied crucial direction and left to fend for themselves.
In recent years, there has been considerable criticism of what has been called the ‘medical model’ as having placed excessive concentration on diagnosis followed by associated types of prescriptions. In contrast, an ‘individualised psychosocial approach’ would place a sharper alertness on sensitive and nuanced judgments which are more tailored towards meeting personal, emotional and social prerequisites.
Psychosomatic upset can occur in various contexts. The good news is that there appears to be an increasing acceptance of the fact that there has been a lack of attention given to the conditions of children and young persons who are experiencing mental suffering. Their struggles rightly are being considered with disquiet from both national and global perspectives by many commentators.
Promoting good mental health
Education authorities have indispensable duties to undertake in ensuring that schools and colleges are compassionate and empathetic organisations with staff adroit in identifying and assisting students who are living through unresolved or previously hidden anxieties. At the same time, it would be absurd to keep piling additional tasks relating to mental wellbeing into the remits of educationalists without ensuring that there are sufficient means and opportunities for continuing professional development.
Staff are frequently the first to raise their apprehensions about the emotive state or unusual mannerisms of a pupil in turmoil. They can provide an insightful starting point for feedback from parents and external experts in a process of healing and restoring an attitude of belonging. Usually, early intervention is highly desirable as is proficient communication among all those involved, including the young persons and their families. Of importance is regarding personal, biological and psychological aspects holistically rather than responding as if these were isolated features.
Making educational inputs more beneficial?
It is a given that education’s role is to provide stepping stones towards establishing and maintaining learners’ esteem and dignity. Many elements of a school’s curriculum offer useful platforms to investigate ways in which the societal stigma associated with mental health might be reduced. Engagement in activities dealing with composure, competences and decision-making all have a place in strengthening emotional buoyancy. Together, inspirational teaching and authentic learning advocate and promote: satisfying lifestyles; sensible eating habits; staying fit; self-compassion; affirmative relationships; connectedness within society; and skills in obtaining necessary support. Well-delivered lessons, discussion sessions and contributions from visiting specialists offer diverse outlooks and challenges to enhance self-worth and to boost fortitude during times of stress.
There have been snags with the introduction and continuity of contemporary forms of assistance as teenagers grow older, move on from school and enter adulthood. These too ought to be highlighted and settled. Productive routes for action including work placements and follow-up programmes to evaluate progress are required. Without a comprehensive strategy, an unacceptably high cohort of young adults with budding abilities and talents could be marginalised.
Getting by with a little help from our friends?
All forms of curative or restorative endeavours profit from sensitivity, compassion, flexibility and, critically, an attentiveness to the prospective risk of adverse effects. Skilled practitioners are well placed to cooperate with staff in schools, for example by introducing tried and tested counselling methods with teenagers. What frequently has been missing is consistent, joined-up partnerships across strategic groupings – including teachers, social workers, police, psychologists and psychiatrists – involved in the general guardianship of those exhibiting onerous quandaries. Through responsive styles in tackling the challenges encompassing an individual’s or a family’s pressures and predicaments, combined support teams can reach a speedy consensus on planning and in delivering beneficial advice and direction. Ideally, they will operate through evidence-based policies, deal with links between physical and mental health, and be in a position to restructure provision to match identified requirements.
Reasons to be cheerful?
Unfortunately, there is no ‘magic bullet’ to pursue when responding with thoroughness and commitment to all those children and adolescents who are encountering difficulties in connection with mental health. However, constructive contributions offering hopeful pathways can bring about life-enhancing changes. These include:
- building and augmenting ‘can do’ mindsets through providing a positive and optimistic interwoven mix of an empathetic learning ethos, effective pastoral care and well-judged tasks and leisure activities
- avoiding fads and concentrating on reliable and advantageous tactics which cultivate and refuel confidence, decision-making and self-worth
- celebrating both small and significant steps forward, particularly when young persons are going through periods of discomfort and darkness
- arranging successful involvement and events in conjunction with external organisations – health practitioners, sports clubs, charities, voluntary societies, and so forth – to ensure suitable ongoing assistance at weekends and during holidays.
So, was that young caring mother correct when she implied that love was not enough? Love is certainly of immense value but its impact can be greatly enriched when parents are aided by schools and appropriate professionals. There are trustworthy and genuine strengths in the collaborative endeavours of united and altruistic teamwork. Often this ’collective love’ is what is really essential.
Appendix: Very brief summaries of three common supportive approaches worthy of further investigation and consideration
There are many forms of therapeutic interventions. Three – counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness – are touched on in the appendix of the more detailed article on mental health (see below for link). Care and training are strongly recommended in order to implement such therapies competently and successfully. However, at times, it is advisable for individuals not to take part.
For the more detailed article on this topic, please use the following link: https://improvingcareand.education/2022/01/21/education-really-matters-mental-health/