Tackling the causes of mental illness is the only way we’re really going to help people get better

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Further to our last post, What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health Psychologists for Social Change argue powerfully that Tackling the causes of mental illness is the only way we’re really going to help people get better.

If we don’t examine the wider context of why and how someone develops their distress, the problem can end up being situated inside the person. It is a person’s brain that is the problem and not these wider factors. This individualisation of psychological distress not only puts the onus for recovery squarely on the individual’s shoulders, but it shifts the focus away from the societal, cultural and political factors which contribute to people being in these positions in the first place.

Thinking about mental health as something that starts and stops with the individual is never going to lead to a healthier and more connected society. We need to see the bigger picture, to consider how things like social disadvantage and inequality tug at the very fabric of what makes society functional. We need to draw on other approaches, like community psychology, public health and mental health impact assessments of policies. Policymakers are not blind to this. NHS England, for example, uses a formula that takes into account health inequalities when it assigns resources to local health authorities. But it needs to go much further than this. Tackling the social root causes needs to be at the core of all policy.

 
One current example that may turn out to be a missed opportunity is the government’s recent proposals for child and adolescent mental health. This is vital to get right as the association between social disadvantage and mental health starts young – in the UK, family income has been found to be inversely related to socioemotional difficulties in children as young as three.

With its narrow focus on the role that schools and colleges can play, the government’s proposal is actually a huge diversion away from the real issues, which we would argue is rising poverty and poor educational policies. And we are not the only ones to think so – last week a joint report from the Education and Health and Social Care Select Committees found that “it lacks any ambition and fails to consider how to prevent child and adolescent mental ill health in the first place”. Their report also revealed that the connection between social disadvantage and youth mental health was not part of the brief that the researchers, providing the evidence to underpin the proposals, were given. In short, it wasn’t part of the conversation from the get-go.

This needs to change. It is time to start a more sophisticated conversation around mental health that leads to more sophisticated action.

Note on the authors:

Annabel Head is a clinical psychologist and Jessica Bond is a writer. Both are members of Psychologists for Social Change, a group established to highlight the social determinants of psychological distress

What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health

I’m not sure if any of our London folk are going to this conference, which is being held today, but it would be excellent to get feedback. The questions being raised need answering by all those wedded seemingly uncritically to notions of wellbeing and the rise of a mentally unhealthy younger generation. Somewhere, gathering dust, I’ve got the notes of contribution I made to a conference on wellbeing. I should blow off the cobwebs and post it sometime.

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What future in mind? Critical Perspectives on Youth Wellbeing and Mental Health.

DATE AND TIME: Fri 18 May 2018 from 10:00 to 16:00 

LOCATION: 152-153 – Cayley Room, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B 2HW
Amidst mounting concern over wellbeing and mental health, improving the state of mind of the young has become a preoccupation of Western economies. In the UK politicians, celebrities and even key members of the British monarchy have campaigned on the issue, demanding earlier intervention to support wellbeing, resilience and positive mental health in schools. More critical voices have drawn attention to the social and structural conditions shaping wellbeing, arguing that the problematization of personal development deflects from the politics of distress in a context of brutal austerity and rising levels of poverty and inequality.

Yet enthusiasm for classroom-based social and emotional training and mental health education is evident in many other national contexts, spanning a range of political and economic frameworks.

This day seminar will examine how concepts of wellbeing and mental health are being applied to children and young people, and will critically explore how positive minds and futures are being envisaged by policymakers. Questions to be discussed include:

Why is state intervention in the social and emotional lives of children and young people increasing in these regions? Can it improve lives and increase happiness or does it instead seek to foreclose the future for the next generation, securing a problematic (unhappy) status quo?

 
As late capitalism is buffeted by global economic crises are the minds of the young increasingly coveted as key sites to anchor and stabilize market based rationality?

 
Can the concept of wellbeing be reclaimed as a socially located experience or is it necessarily a personalised, psychological variable?

 
What alternative ways are there to understand and support the best interests and wellbeing of young people?

 

 

 

Youth Violence and Brexit – A Detached Youth Work Response – June 8

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Youth Violence and Brexit – A Detached Youth Work Response will provide an opportunity for practitioners and policymakers to consider the normalisation of youth violence and the impact of Brexit on young people? We will also consider how to maintain relationships with young people in London and the south-east in this climate? Detached and outreach workers will have opportunities to reflect, to get support and to voice their views on these issues.

Friday 8 June 2018 from 09:30 to 16:00 BST
Samuel Coleridge Taylor Centre, 194 Selhurst Rd, South Norwood, London, SE25 6XX

The cost of £20 includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

50 places available. Please contact us through Eventbrite if you need to discuss payment or you have any questions.

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For further information about the Federation, please visit www.fdyw.org.uk

Arguing and organising for a Statutory Youth Service continued

Article: Winning a Statutory Youth Service

Doug-Nicholls

Doug Nicholls reflects on the momentous Roundtable event which took place at the Palace of Westminster on 23rd April 2018. He posits that there are shifts towards a new Youth Service with support from key politicians, youth organisations and young people. Setting the political and economic context, Nicholls suggests how a new youth service if both needed and affordable.

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CHOOSEYOUTH EVENT:

CREATING A STATUTORY YOUTH SERVICE – TEN MINUTE BILL

6 June at 10:00–14:00 at Portcullis House (The MacMillan Room), SW1A 2JR London

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June 6th is an important day for the future of youth work and youth services.

On that day Lloyd Russell Moyle will speak to a Bill in Parliament seeking to introduce a statutory youth service to enhance open access provision and secure resourcing for our essential work.

It is vital that young people and youth workers are in Parliament on that day to meet their MPs.

We, therefore, ask you to consider coming to Parliament where we have booked a large room in Portcullis House (The MacMillan Room).

The idea is to invite your MP to meet you there at a specific time between 10.00-14.00pm.

If you are not able to meet your MP for any reason please consider coming along yourself and supporting the day and keep the great momentum going and meet people from all over the country.

Because of Parliamentary security and access arrangements, you will need to sign up for this event. Once you have done this then we will be in touch to find out the times of your arrival and departure on the day.

This could be a day that really changes things just before the All Party Parliamentary Group enquiry into the youth service over the summer so please get in touch with your MPs as soon as possible.

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200 years on has Karl Marx anything to say about Youth Work?

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This week it’s the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, a much honoured, much-reviled giant of history. As someone deeply influenced by his legacy I’ve been messing about with writing something about the extent to which Marx has influenced youth work thinking and practice over the last 50 years.  I hope to post something of interest on my blog in the next few weeks. In the interim, I think it’s appropriate to draw your attention to a number of contemporary interventions, which seek to weigh up more generally whether Marx has anything fruitful to say about the present crisis of meaning in society, the present uncertainty about the future, at the centre of which are young people.

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K is for Karl – Series of 5 Films by Paul Mason about the meaning of Marx today

“Why does Marx matter today?” is the question posed by British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason in five short films produced by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung to commemorate Karl Marx’s 200th birthday. Through Marx, Mason explores the topics of “Alienation”, “Communism”, “Revolution”, “Exploitation” and “The Future of Machines” in order to demonstrate how Marx, who Mason describes as the most influential thinker of the modern world, remains deeply relevant to understanding our contemporary world.

In the first of a series of five short films, British journalist and filmmaker Paul Mason searches for the roots of Marx’s thinking in Berlin, where he began his university studies in 1836. “For Marx, alienation doesn’t just mean we get depressed, we hate our jobs, or that we feel bad about the world. It means we’re constantly using our creative powers in the wrong way. We make things, but the things we make – machines, states, religions, rules – end up controlling us.”


 

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Paul Mason again, after all, he hails from the same Lancashire town, Leigh, as me and we stood together on picket lines during the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike.  Friendship aside, disagreements aside, he’s always challenging.

On the bicentenary of his birth, Marx continues to be a key thinker thanks to his surprising faith in the individual.

Why Marx is more relevant than ever in the age of automation

If I could speak across time to the people frozen in the above photograph [the blurry snapshot catches Leon Trotsky in mid-sentence, in Frida Kahlo’s house sometime in 1937. To the left of the frame is Natalia Sedova, Trotsky’s wife. To the right is Kahlo and, half hidden behind her, a young woman listening intently: Trotsky’s secretary Raya Dunayevskaya],  I would say, after congratulating them for their magnificent lives of resistance and suffering: “That inner desire you are suppressing, for Marxism to be humanistic? That impulse towards individual liberation? It’s already there in Marx, just waiting to be discovered. So paint what you want, love whom you want. Fuck the vanguard party. The revolutionary subject is the self.”

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Yanis Varoufakis has composed a new introduction to the Communist Manifesto of 1848.

Marx predicted our present crisis – and points the way out

For a manifesto to succeed, it must speak to our hearts like a poem while infecting the mind with images and ideas that are dazzlingly new. It needs to open our eyes to the true causes of the bewildering, disturbing, exciting changes occurring around us, exposing the possibilities with which our current reality is pregnant. It should make us feel hopelessly inadequate for not having recognised these truths ourselves, and it must lift the curtain on the unsettling realisation that we have been acting as petty accomplices, reproducing a dead-end past. Lastly, it needs to have the power of a Beethoven symphony, urging us to become agents of a future that ends unnecessary mass suffering and to inspire humanity to realise its potential for authentic freedom.

 
No manifesto has better succeeded in doing all this than the one published in February 1848 at 46 Liverpool Street, London. Commissioned by English revolutionaries, The Communist Manifesto (or the Manifesto of the Communist Party, as it was first published) was authored by two young Germans – Karl Marx, a 29-year-old philosopher with a taste for epicurean hedonism and Hegelian rationality, and Friedrich Engels, a 28-year-old heir to a Manchester mill.

 

As a work of political literature, the manifesto remains unsurpassed. Its most infamous lines, including the opening one (“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism”), have a Shakespearean quality. Like Hamlet confronted by the ghost of his slain father, the reader is compelled to wonder: “Should I conform to the prevailing order, suffering the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune bestowed upon me by history’s irresistible forces? Or should I join these forces, taking up arms against the status quo and, by opposing it, usher in a brave new world?”

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REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE : IDYW STARTING POINTS

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Find below the 16 Starting Points, which reflect our IDYW interpretation of the rich debates held both under the ‘Is the tide turning?’ banner and at our March national conference. We hope that you will find them useful as a reference point, as an aide-memoire, in the diversity of meetings you’ll find yourself in during the coming, perhaps turbulent months. The Starting Points leaflet, available in Word, was well received at Monday’s Chooseyouth event. Obviously, given the pluralist character of IDYW, we’re not expecting anyone to slavishly follow these to the letter. Indeed initial critical reaction focused on point 11 and the issue of appropriate pay and conditions.

 

IN DEFENCE OF YOUTH WORK – STARTING POINTS*

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE

  1. Youth Work’s fundamental aspiration is profoundly educational, political and universal. It seeks to nurture the questioning, compassionate young citizen committed to the development of a socially just and democratic society. It is not a soft-policing instrument of social control.
  2. YouthWork as an integral element in education from cradle to grave should be situated in the Department for Education.
  3. The rejuvenation of a distinctive, state-supported Youth Work focused on inclusive, open access provision needs to be based on a radically different and complementary relationship between the Local Authority and a pluralist, independent voluntary sector.
  4. The renewed practice needs to be sustained by statutory and consistent funding, the purpose and allocation of which ought to be determined locally via accountable mechanisms, such as a democratic Youth Work ‘council’ made up of young people, youth workers, voluntary sector representatives, managers and politicians.
  5. Collaborative work across agencies is vital, but youth workers need to retain their identity and autonomy rather than be absorbed into multi-disciplinary teams.
  6. Youth Work should be associational and conversational, opposed to oppression and exploitation, collective rather than just individual in its intent, unfolding at a pace in tune with the forging of authentic and trusting relationships with young people.
  7. Cornerstones of practice should include the primacy of the voluntary relationship; a critical dialogue starting from young people’s agendas; support for young people’s autonomous activity, for example, work with young women, Black and Minority Ethnic and LGBTQ+ young people; an engagement with the ‘here and now’; the nurturing of young people-led democracy; and the significance of the skilled, improvisatory worker.
  8. The informed focus on young people’s needs flowing from open access provision is more effective than imposed, targeted work in reaching ‘vulnerable’ youth.
  9. Youth Work does not write a script of prescribed outcomes in advance of meeting a young person. It trusts in a person-centred, process-led practice that is positive and unique, producing outcomes that are sometimes simple, sometimes complex, often unexpected and often longitudinal. Practice must be evaluated and accountable, but not distorted by the drive for data, the desire to measure the intangible.
  10. Training and continuous professional development, particularly through the discipline of supervision, via the HE institutions and local providers is essential for full-time, part-time and volunteer workers in ensuring the quality of practice.
  11. JNC and other nationally agreed pay scales and conditions need to be defended and extended. However, a respectful engagement with the differing cultures and employment practices of voluntary and faith organisations, with the contradictions of professionalisation, is required. The emergence of independent social enterprise initiatives cannot be ignored.
  12. Closer links need to be renewed and created between the Youth Work training agencies, regional Youth Work units and research centres.
  13. Youth Work needs advocates at a national level, such as the NYA and Institute for Youth Work, but these must be prepared to be voices of criticism and dissent.
  14. Irrespective of Brexit, Youth Work ought to embrace the Declaration of the 2nd European Youth Work Convention [2015] and be internationalist in outlook.
  15. The National Citizen Service ought to be closed or curtailed, its funding transferred into all-year round provision, of which summer activities will be a part.
  16. The renaissance we urge hinges on a break from the competitive market and the self-centred individualism of neoliberalism and the [re]creation of a Youth Work dedicated to cooperation and the common good.

*These starting points are developed from the themes of the extensive Is the Tide Turning consultation IDYW engaged in over the last year, and discussions at our Annual Conference in March 2018

REVIVING YOUTH WORK AND REIMAGINING A YOUTH SERVICE2 – Word version.

Please photocopy and circulate as you think fit. Thanks.

Towards a Statutory Youth Service – Chooseyouth Action Points

 

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Thanks to Anam Hoque

 

Further to Monday’s packed and animated Roundtable event held in the Houses of Parliament Doug Nicholls, Chair of Chooseyouth, has written as follows:

 

Just a big thank you to all those who were able to attend the Chooseyouth event in Parliament on Monday. Thanks also to those who were with us in spirit but unable to attend.

We are going to have to be focused and organised over the coming year to win. We will send out some briefings to assist with campaigning.

 

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Ta to Sue Atkins for the montage

 

In the meantime here are the action points we suggested at the meeting that would really help.

1. Declare your individual and or organisational support for Chooseyouth if you have not already done so by writing simply to Kerry Jenkins at kerry.jenkins@unitetheunion.org. It doesn’t cost anything and your name will simply be listed as a supporter.

2. As soon as you can write to your MP whoever they are and ask them if they support a statutory Youth Service. Let Chooseyouth know what they say.

3 In May write to your MP and ask them if they will be supporting the Ten Minute Bill on the Youth Service.

4 Immediately write to Angela Raynor MP requesting that the Youth Service be made statutory and put within the National Education Service that Labour is proposing.

5 Get ready to lobby your MP again and get busy on Social Media when the Ten Minute Rule Bill is put on June 6th by Lloyd Russell Moyle MP.

6 Write immediately to Cat Smith MP who is consulting on the implementation of a statutory youth service, saying you support a statutory youth service and giving any reasons why and what it might look like.

All of this will make a difference at this critical time.

Thanks very much.

Doug Nicholls,

General Secretary,

General Federation of Trade Unions.