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Mental Health Awareness Event, University of Portsmouth

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness week (14-20 May), the University of Portsmouth is hosting a special event to provide greater understanding of a range of mental issues faced by children.

Researchers are aiming to improve mental health in young people.

The Mental Health in Childhood and Education (MICE) Hub and School of Education and Childhood Studies at the University is holding its second Mental Health Awareness event on Thursday 17 May from 9:30am to 3pm.

This event will focus on mental health and wellbeing from early childhood to adulthood and is in response to proposals in a recent green paper to transform NHS mental health care for young people. These proposals are based on three key elements: a teacher at every school and college becoming its designated lead for mental health; help for schools from new mental health support teams; and the guarantee of help within four weeks.

The focus of the day is ‘Children’s Well-being and Lived Experiences of Health and Well-being’ and will feature two keynote talks:

  • ‘A Good Childhood? Children’s well-being in the UK’ by Larissa Pople, Senior Researcher and expert in children’s well-being and poverty at the Children’s Society, London; co-author of the ‘Good Childhood Report’.
  • ‘Attempting to get at the lived experience of health and well-being: working with interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA)’ by Professor Jonathan Smith, Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birbeck, University of London.

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, Reader (Associate Professor) in Childhood Studies and Head of the Mental Health in Childhood and Education (MICE), said: “The purpose of our mental health event is to add to the ongoing debate on how we can best support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, by specifically focussing on issues faced by vulnerable groups of children, such as children in care, and children on the margins of society and offering an insight into barriers and possible solutions.”

As well as the keynote talks, there will be panel discussions in which members of the academic community share their research on mental health and wellbeing. In the afternoon, the School of Education and Childhood Studies will launch its new IPA (interpretative phenomenological analysis) Forum, with a specific focus on work around mental health and wellbeing.

Wellbeing Workshop – Health and Wellbeing Theme, University of Portsmouth

The University of Portsmouth’s Health and Wellbeing Theme recently hosted their first Wellbeing Workshop:

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten attended the University of Portsmouth’s Wellbeing Workshop on Tuesday 24th April at which she presented The MICE Hub to an audience of approximately fifty University of Portsmouth staff from across faculties and chaired a breakout session around wellbeing in childhood and education.

Increasing outreach for the MICE Hub:

Dr Sims-Schouten explained the purpose of the Mental Health in Education Hub and invited all attendees to book a place for the MICE Hub’s second Mental Health Awareness Event to take place on Thursday 17th May. A plethora of research is taking place across the University linked to the MICE Hub including projects specifically linked to wellbeing in childhood and education.

Reaching an interested audience:

The MICE Hub was well received and generated interest for the breakout session which included discussions around the support of autism in higher education and how technology could be used to improve this which linked to ideas around inclusivity and assessment and how to ensure assessment is for learning rather than of learning.

Potential for future collaboration and projects:

The ideas generated during this workshop will be considered for their potential to develop in to project proposals with the aim of generating external funding linked to the health and wellbeing theme so that impactful research linking to wellbeing in childhood and education can take place. This will be facilitated by follow-up sessions to be organised by the Health and Wellbeing Theme Director, Professor Gordon Blunn.

Self-Care for Kids

Too Much Pressure

With increasing environmental challenges and pressures on children and young people today including digital devices, exam pressure, and an increasingly challenging economic climate; perhaps a move towards empowering today’s young people by helping them to help themselves, in other words, self-care, is the way forward?

Sources of Support

Several charities specialising in mental health for young people have already held campaigns this year aimed at supporting self-care approaches, including Time to Change’s Time to Talk Day campaign held on Thursday 1st February 2018 with the slogan, ‘Change Your Mind’. The charity states,

Since Time to Talk Day first launched in 2014, it has sparked millions of conversations in schools, homes, workplaces, in the media and online.

Another example is ‘University Mental Health Day’ which took place on Thursday 1st March 2018, and was run jointly by Student Minds and UMHAN, and sponsored by Unite Students who run under the slogans, “Community Starts Here,” and “We Empower You.” Unite students recently launched the Common Room, a community Hub that provides resources to support students.

Young Minds provides a wide range of resources specifically designed for children and young people, and their parents, carers, teachers and others who work with them. Their #HelloYellow campaign is run on World Mental Health Day, which this year takes place on Wednesday 10th October.

 

The State of Children’s Mental Health

Despite these efforts, recent evidence shows that children’s mental health continues to decline and that stigma (another word for discrimination) is still a predominant issue when it comes to encouraging children to talk about how they are feeling. The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report highlights some increasing concerns regarding children’s overall wellbeing and Young Minds present statistics on various aspects of young people’s mental health. Time to Change have taken a look at how widespread discrimination surrounding mental health is still prevalent, which was presented publicly in their ‘Heads Together’ campaign in conjunction with the Royal Family.

Empowering Kids to Overcome these Challenges

It is clear that the challenges of our environment are unlikely to change in our children’s lifetimes and with technology only becoming more advanced, these challenges are only likely to increase. But what if we can empower our children to take charge of how they manage these challenges and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Self-help tools including Mobile Apps, CBT, Mindfulness are a few examples. CAMHS stress the important of nutrition and exercise on their ‘Taking care of myself’ page and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has put together a Toolkit for Schools.

For the Future

Perhaps there is still scope for further improvement to what’s already available? Discussions surrounding disjointed and inadequate mental health services for children have lasted for decades. Governments and policy makers are still striving for improvements and charities continue to redouble their efforts to make the message clear. Perhaps working on awareness needs to take another step forward and include our children directly, what if we asked children and young people to be more involved. Maybe a focus on increasing accessibility and improving what’s already out there so our children can find these tools and use them effectively with or without adult support is the next step.