Young Peoples Mental Health Needs Support

May 22, 2016 at 1:22 pm (Mental health, Parenting, Politics, Teaching) ()

The axing of Natasha Devon’s role as school’s mental health champion was a real blow for young people in this country.  It sends the message that the government does not recognise the issues of mental health in schools when in fact it is a ticking time bomb. Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. Why schools now?  Why is it different from the past? Why can’t young people cope in the way that generations prior to them did?  As I see it there are four main factors.

Firstly awareness – the 21st Century has been a truly excellent time in the history of Psychology and symptoms of depression, anxiety and other conditions are far more often picked up than they were in the past.  Stephen Fry’s autobiography Moab is my Washpot is particularly good for highlighting this.

Secondly social media.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  Think of the worst most humiliating thing that happened to you.  Now imagine it’s on Facebook or Youtube and is there forever and people can keep linking back to it.  That is the world that everyone born in the 21st Century is living in.  Do not underestimate the horrors of social media on the young.  I thank god all the time that it did not exist when I was a teenager.  Text messaging caused me enough problems. (Don’t ask – at least not on the internet)

One and two are symptoms of the world and there is very little we can do about it.  But three and four are where the government has a responsibility to improve the situation and the sacking of Natasha Devon becomes unforgiveable.

The third factor as I see it is that teachers are at breaking point.  Yes, yes I rant about this all the time but it pains me to see the stress that my former colleagues are still under.  Everyone I have seen since I left my job has said how much better I look – this is largely because the terrible eczema I had developed on my eyelids in the last year has completely disappeared.  My eczema has always been stress related.  The last time I had it, before this year, was in my final year of university. The teaching job had got so stressful my body felt it had to tell me.  But it’s not just me.  Nor is it my lovely friends who are still working so hard they are struggling to maintain their sanity. One in ten teachers have been prescribed anti-depressants as a direct response to their job.  That article highlights all the statistics but the key point is that teachers are suffering more stress than they ever have before.  It is undoubtable that this is conveyed onto the students.

But finally the key point is the stress that the students are under.  The stress that academic achievement is the only route to follow, that there are no jobs waiting for them when they leave and that they will be considered a failure if they do not achieve the government set targets for themselves. This is what Natasha Devon was highlighting when she lost her job – that children as young as 12 have developed high levels of stress over standardised testing.  I know everyone is bored of being told how good Finland’s education system is but it shows that testing and forcing children into box ticking exercises is not the only way to educate them.

So why should we care? Aside from being decent human beings who do not want to see children suffering there are practical economic reasons to care. 90% of prisoners have at least one mental disorder and the prison suicide rate is one of the highest in the world, so these high levels of stress may well be increasing the number of young people getting involved in crime. The biggest killer of people in their twenties (i.e. those just emerging from the schools system) is self harm.  A shocking situation and one that can definitely be seen as a direct consequence of the lack of mental health support young people are given.

So what can we do?  Keep putting pressure on MP’s to ensure their is support for young people.  CAMHS are sporadic in their effectiveness but at least they do provide focused support for young people.  The real problem happens when those young people reach 18 and no longer have support.  I have tried to help students transition to adult mental health services in the past when they are leaving school and it is shocking how little support they have.  So if you wish to do something practical I urge you to sign the petition below which has only two weeks left to get enough signatures to get a response from the government  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114608

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High

September 27, 2008 at 11:32 am (Politics, Teaching) (, , )

It’s been a good week.  I’ve genuinely come out of this week feeling confident, prepared and excited.  I suspect this feeling is going to be short lived – pretty much until I get to my placement school.  However there has been encouraging progress.  I’ve taught mock lessons to my classmates and not felt the need to collapse on the floor and die. I’ve finally clicked that lesson planning and behaviour management are inextricably linked because the best way to keep the kids shut up is to keep them busy and / or interested.  So with all my new found knowledge and experience I’m feeling thrilled.

Or at least I was – then I started a bit of research on my placement school.  Of course I read the OFSTED report and the schools website but quite frankly, that tells you nothing.  Instead I went trawling the social networking sites and on Hi 5 (which I hadn’t even heard of until yesterday), I hit a jackpot.  Well I say jackpot.  Basically videos of kids senselessly mocking a teacher and secretly filmling it.  Just what you want to see.  The wobbly feeling is slowly returning to my legs and panic is setting in my chest.

In other news the US are having an election.  I may be a bit of a right wing nut job at times but do you know I have had to completely and utterly stop having any support for John McCain.  Not because I dislike his views that much, nor because I think Obama is incredible.  Frankly they’re both equally bland and non-commital.  However the concept of that gun toting, fundamentalist woman being that close to the presidency leaves me with no choice but to support Obama.  Don’t bellieve me?  Check this out – do you want her with her finger on the button?

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Learning How People Learn by Learning

September 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm (Teaching) ()

I cannot believe it’s only Thursday i.e. four days into my course.  It feels like I’ve been doing it for weeks.  I’m shattered and I haven’t even been near a classroom yet!  It’s just been endless lessons on lessons. We have gigantic lectures with everyone who’s doing a Secondary PGCE on big grand subjects – although every single one of them seems to fit in at some point that you must NEVER touch the pupils. You’d think that would be kind of a given but apparently they feel he need to stress it regularly.  Then there’s the subject studies work in our little gang.  Well I’m starting to like my coursemates more.  Mainly because you have to really.  We’re constantly having to do group work together and the need to know and get on with everyone is becoming  apparent already.  I’m quashing my naturally misanthropic urges and doing my best to find something charming in the cold shallow eyes of the gigglinig girls and the moronic jokes of the mindless lads.  Can’t you tell my outlook is more positive already?   In fairness most people on the course do seem quite nice. There’s only one or two who make me pity the students who will have to be taught by them in a few months time.

So now  I have a pile of reading that’s sending me to sleep just looking at it and a handbook filled with baffling acronyms.  It seems I need to constantly be keeping records of everything I do every day, at every stage of my course to keep in some personal development file.  Maybe I can just hand in the blog at the end of the year instead?

But anyway the thing that’s really striking me is how our tutors are constantly teaching us how to teach in the way they teach us.  You have this unsettling feeling you’re being treated like a 12 year old and then suddenly the tutor explains that they were treating you like a 12 year old – or worse you don’t notice and they ask you to identify what they just did.   Of course this brings out the worst in me as I always want to be teacher’s pet and instantly try and suck up.  So I’m not sure I’m picking up on the ingenious teaching methods so much as I’m regressing to my schooldays.

Next post shall be funnier however for now my brain is too filled with the enormity of the task ahead of me for levity.

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On with the study!

September 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm (Teaching) (, )

Well I survived the week with the little ones.  They were actually quite sweet in the end.  By half way through the week I actually knew all their names and rather like them.  However I am 100% sure I do not want to be a primary school teacher.  For starters there’s the maths. Secondly there’s the parents – every morning and every afternoon haranguing you at the classroom door.  And finally it’s the kids.  I know kids are cute and indeed some of those 7 year olds were very bright but you just can’t have a conversation with them the way you can with teenagers.  I need students who can at least get my bad jokes even if they don’t think they’re funny.

Anyway the actual course is started and already I’m overwhelmed with paperwork and looking up curriculums and all that stuff.  The people on my course seem to fall quite neatly into categories.  The girls instantly fit into the cliques they did at school.  The overdressed, overpainted bimbos have already formed giggling gangs in the corner, making everyone else feel left out.  The slightly awkward girls are also part of the gigglinng gang but desperately looking for approval and terrified of being shunnned by the alphas.  Then there’s the one or two “unique” girls who act deeply mysterious and aloof in an attempt to make their personalities seem more interesting.  Oh and then there’s the muslim girls who band together with their fantastically beautiful headscarves that almost make you jealous.

The boys are much more simple in their groupings.  There are the lads and the men who don’t want to let the lads know they’re not one of the lads just yet.  Constant conversations about football are had to try and establish who gets to be in the gang and who doesn’t.

Where do I fit in? Well I’m the one who shuns the girls because quite frankly they scare me, is not quite fit enough to be fancied by the lads but not quite laddish enough to be taken into the fold and invariably ends up chatting to the nice but normal men who secretly listen to Radio 4 but would never admit it.

I suspect that one of the main reasons you have to spend so much time with your tutor group on a PGCE is to remind you of the social politics teenagers have to go through in forming their cliques.  It’s certainly working on me.

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Special Day

September 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm (Teaching) ()

So day one is over.  Well it’s not really day one of my course actually.  It’s day one of “Primary School Experience Week”.  I may be doing a secondary PGCE but I still have to experience what the land of the munchkins is like.  I have to say until today I was thinking it would prove to be a pointless exercise.  However I can now see that it’s going to be a worthwhile week.  I’m not sure all other students doing it this week are going to feel the same way but I have landed on my feet in terms of experience.

You see the class I’m observing has a large number of children with special needs. This is my first experience of seriously disabled, constant attention needing students.  Students who literally need one on one attention in order to achieve anything.  Sure the class has teaching assistants but not as many as the number of kids with SENs.  Any independent work means all the TA’s and the teacher are taken up wholly with the SEN kids leaving the other kids grasping for the few minutes spare attention they can grab.

Don’t get me wrong – the teacher I’m following is fantastic and the one who brought these issues to my attention.  What has massively impressed me is the way in which they are working towards the best solution to make sure all the kids in the class – regardless of needs levels – are going to get a fair share of attention.

No it just makes me think back to when I’ve heard political discussions about the issue of Special School versus mainstream schooling and I’ve nodded sagely along with whatever conventional wisdom other people said however I’d not given enough thought to the implications. One day thinking about the issue has left me sat on the fence.  From my basic political views I think if a parent wants to send their child to an exclusively special needs school then they should have that right and I still do believe that but I’m not sure what’s best for the child anymore.  In fact to rephrase I’m not sure what’s best for children.  Keeping people with severe disabilities segregated has impacts both positive and negative on the children in question as well as the other children they go to school with.

It’s definitely going to take me more than a day to figure it out.  And right now I’m exhausted from the munchkins so it’s time to take the thinking cap off.

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