Five years ago, I attended a small conference for primary school teachers, which had children’s well-being as its theme. A number of school colleagues shared interventions, that had been put in place in their schools, in an attempt to address the rise in mental ill-health amongst children. We heard that children, some as young as seven, were exhibiting signs of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. The interventions shared by the teachers ranged from the introduction of activities such as yoga, to the acquisition of a school cat that children could sit and stroke when the need arose. It was an inspiring day and three key thoughts struck me.
Firstly, I realised it was a privilege to be sitting amongst such passionate individuals, all of whom wanted to create an environment in which their children could thrive. Secondly, I couldn’t help wondering why our seven year olds needed interventions for stress and anxiety. Could addressing the cause, as opposed to the symptoms, be the way forward? Thirdly, was it a fair assumption to link the increase in primary school children suffering mental illness to the increase in student teachers with mental illness? Were the children who found solace by stroking the cat, making decisions to become teachers based on the comforting primary school experiences they had had. If there was a link, how could I be part of the solution that helped to break the cycle of stressed children becoming stressed trainees, becoming stressed teachers of stressed children!
Four years later, I attended another, unrelated conference. Once again, the theme was well-being, and yet again, I experienced insight – this time an insight that was so powerful I knew I would have to take action.
The presenters at Resilient Young Minds were inspiring. Rarely had so many individuals had so much impact on me. Individuals such as the young people who eloquently explained how they had overcome issues such as panic attacks, low self-esteem and bullying after participating in a programme that helped them understand where their feelings and experiences were coming from. Individuals such as Jackie Moses, who described her journey of becoming an iheart facilitator. I had never heard of iheart before, but was soon googling to find out more and I was confident it had the potential to make a difference in young people’s lives. Individuals such as Jamie Smart, who challenged my breakout group with the question ‘So what are you going to do to help address the issue of children’s mental illness?” I had no control over my answer, my words blurted out from somewhere deep within: “I’m going to find a way of breaking the cycle by helping student teachers to develop a better understanding of who they are and where their feelings come from.”
Breaking the cycle – Part 2 – Taking Action – coming soon.
Photograph credit: Wikimedia Commons