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?

 

 

 

Easter Sustenance for the Senses 2 – Community Education, Mental Health, Military Schools, Queensland and Civil Society

CONCEPT

As ever a stimulating array of pieces from our friends at CONCEPT.

CURRENT ISSUE

Vol 9 No 1 (2018): Spring

ARTICLES

INSPIRATIONS

POETRY


This article poses more than a few questions with regard to youth work’s growing infatuation with a skewed and individualised notion of mental health, well-being and indeed happiness – see the reference to NCS.

DON’T TURN BRITAIN’S SCHOOLS INTO MENTAL HEALTH CENTRES

Jennie Bristow argues that government plans for ‘Mental Health First Aid’ risk pathologising ordinary childhood while doing little for those with more serious difficulties.


For a brief moment, I thought this was an April Fools’ story.

Government to consider plans for ‘military schools’

The government is considering the introduction of a ‘military ethos’ in schools across the UK to help children from deprived backgrounds. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has commissioned MP Robert Goodwill to review the benefits of an education inspired by the ‘values and disciplines’ of the Armed Forces.


Across the oceans, our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] have published the findings of a 2017 Youth Sector survey. The following brief excerpt is likely to ring a bell or two.

                  Sivayash Doostkhah, YANQ

Findings of Queensland Youth Sector Survey 2017

Survey responses repeatedly identified that services are under-funded and under-resourced
to meet the level of service demand (both in terms of intensity of service provision and numerical demand). Funding agreements are overly prescriptive and restrictive, dictating short-term, output-focused service delivery models. As such, services are hamstrung from achieving their full potential to be innovative and respond effectively to the real needs of young people within the context of their individual circumstances.

The combination of funding criteria and competition-based tendering were seen as creating a sector culture that encourages ‘siloed’ service delivery. Organisations become inward focused and are increasingly operating independently of other services. Service delivery becomes focused on narrow, specified outcomes at the expense of addressing the inter-related needs affecting young people’s long-term outcomes. Funding criteria also effectively preference funding to large NGO’s at the expense of experienced, specialist local agencies that typically have a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of local community and youth needs.

Respondents also described the constant change imposed by the lack of funding security inherent in short-term contracts and defunding of programs. This impacts support relationships with young people and inhibits services’ capacity to offer ongoing support over time for young people with multiple complex needs. It also
fosters a sector culture plagued with uncertainty that makes it difficult for organisations to undertake long term agency-level planning and offer job security to staff.


Staying in Australia a searching article, Whatever happened to civil society by Vern Hughes echoes the findings of the NCIA Inquiry into the Future of the Voluntary Services. to which IDYW contributed.

In the last 40 years the architecture of voluntary citizen action has been transformed. Why aren’t we fighting back?

He begins:

At the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ‘civil society’ is referenced in virtually every presentation and fireside conversation. The world, it seems, no longer consists of two sectors—public and private, state and market—there is a third: NGOs and INGOs, charities and philanthropists, human rights watchdogs, aid and development agencies and global environmental campaigns to name but a few. The ‘Third Sector’ has arrived, and Its CEOs now mingle seamlessly with those from banks, energy companies, media giants and government agencies.

The problem with this embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO. Just 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact.

He suggests in a provocation to many of us:

The principal factor, however, in driving both the transformation of the social sector and the relatively low level of critical public debate about it has been the global rise of the managerial class and its capture of much of the not-for-profit world. In the wake of the 1960s/1970s social movements, governments invested heavily in a plethora of welfare state programs and services, and universities churned out an army of social science practitioners with an insatiable demand for things to manage.

Not-for-profits and charities were easy pickings, so voluntary associations of all kinds were transformed into instruments of service delivery, ‘community representation’ and ‘therapeutic welfare’ in the public interest. Traditional bodies such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, church missions and voluntary health societies fell like dominos to ‘management capture’ and quickly became unrecognisable to those who knew them a generation before.

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Knowledge Bar with a social purpose in Manchester, January 18

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Our friends at 42nd Street – the project now 36 years old – illustrate their continuing creativity and commitment to their roots. True to their philosophy amidst the gloom and stress, giving folk in Manchester something to smile about.

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Manchester-based mental health charity 42nd Street is inviting the public to their Knowledge Bar; a social evening with purpose, Thursday 18th January 6.30 -9pm at The Horsfall, 87 Great Ancoats Street, M4 5AG.

Each month Knowledge Bar aims to improve Manchester’s wellbeing with healthy food and drink tastings, creative workshops and talks by professionals with insight into how to live a more balanced life.

The event is held at 42nd Street’s creative venue The Horsfall, opened just a year ago with the aim of improving young people’s mental health and wellbeing through creative activity.

The idea for this public event came from research which uncovered stories of 18th Century Salons held in Ancoats and which gave people an opportunity to socialise and share ideas and knowledge.

42nd Street has taken inspiration for the project from the Ancoats Art Museum; a unique social and artistic experiment established in Ancoats, Manchester at the end of the 19th Century. Its founder, Thomas C Horsfall sought to promote wellbeing and social change through contact with art and nature. Horsfall filled the museum with artworks, sculptures, music recitals, public lectures and even live birds in a bid to make the lives of those living in the surrounding slums more bearable. The Horsfall project will draw on this rich, but little-known story and make it relevant and useful to young people across the city today. {Extract from earlier publicity}

This month you can learn to roll your own sushi with Sahabat Boat Café, pick up tips for turning chaos into calm with The Clutter Fairy and upcycle what otherwise might be thrown away with Taylor Made with Love.

The event is free.

How do we get mental wealth?

A Long Read for the weekend about how we achieve mental wealth. It is a welcome shot across the bows of professionals, including youth workers, who act as if the dilemmas are individual rather than social and political.

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Alliance blog

In his address to a Labour Party conference fringe event, Paul Atkinson examines the social and political forces at work in our society’s current approach to psychological distress and asks what we need from a new government to support and nourish the nation’s mental wealth.


For whatever reasons – reasons that I think are very important and need to be explored – the emotional and psychological difficulties of living in this society are becoming increasingly visible and alarming: in our families; in our schools and colleges; in our local communities; in the attention drawn to mental ill health by (social) media, charities and celebrities, as well as politicians and social policy makers.

Should we think of this growing attention to mental health and the emotional conditions of contemporary life as a sign of growing awareness of the pain and suffering that has always been with us, hidden away in the private closet…

View original post 2,452 more words

42nd Street pulls off remarkable creative coup

Our friends at 42nd Street –  the project now 35 years old – illustrate their continuing creativity and commitment to their roots. True to their philosophy amidst the gloom and stress, giving us something to smile about.

4ndstreet_logo

Mental health charity 42nd Street to launch a new venue and programme for heritage, arts and mental health with investment from Heritage Lottery Fund, LandAid and the Redevco Foundation.

The Horsfall corner view

42nd Street, a Manchester-based mental health charity working with young people under stress, has today received £516,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with further support from LandAid and the Redevco Foundation to enable the opening of its new venue, The Horsfall, in May 2016.

The Horsfall builds on 42nd Street’s trusted and innovative approach to improving young people’s mental health. The programme will see national and international artists, makers and heritage experts, working with local young people to reinterpret stories from the past, their own stories and to imagine new futures.

On Monday 3rd November at 4pm, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast Taking Art to the People a 30 minute documentary exploring the history of the Ancoats Art Museum and how 42ndStreet is building on its legacy.

The project will begin with the renovation and repurposing of an empty, Victorian shop into a three storey, dedicated creative space by Manchester based architects Stephenson STUDIO. The launch programme (2016-18) includes a site specific theatre experience, visual arts exhibitions, online collaborations between young people in the UK and Los Angeles and opportunities for young people to develop creative skills for a commercial market.

42nd Street has taken inspiration for the project from the Ancoats Art Museum; a unique social and artistic experiment established in Ancoats, Manchester at the end of the 19th Century. Its founder, Thomas C Horsfall sought to promote wellbeing and social change through contact with art and nature. Horsfall filled the museum with artworks, sculptures, music recitals, public lectures and even live birds in a bid to make the lives of those living in the surrounding slums more bearable. The Horsfall project will draw on this rich, but little known story and make it relevant and useful to young people across the city today.

The innovative programme of workshops, performances and exhibitions will be led by Julie McCarthy; 42nd Street’s Creative Producer and will bring young people together with some of the best creative minds to reimagine how we engage with heritage and the arts.

Read more at http://42ndstreet.org.uk/news/press-release/

Mental health informed youth work: Critical Reflections

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In a guest blog on the Changing Minds, Changing Lives web site Susan Blishen takes stock of  what the Right Here initiative learned and achieved, and what could come next.

Right Here was a five-year young people’s mental health and wellbeing programme developed and managed by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Mental Health Foundation. It funded four local partnerships – in Brighton and Hove, Fermanagh, the London Borough of Newham, and Sheffield – to work with young people aged 16 – 25 to co-produce and deliver mental health and wellbeing activities, projects, research and opportunities. The programme ran from 2009 – 2014.

Her sober and thoughtful reflections are a welcome change from the self-congratulatory evaluations, which have become the norm in the competitive funding culture created by the marketisation of the youth sector.

She begins:

Summing up over half a decade of activity in four sites across the UK is difficult. Working out what this activity actually means for those who might follow in its footsteps doubly so. We’ve concluded that where Right Here worked well it was a kind of mental health informed youth work; taking everything that’s brilliant about youth work and youth workers and simply focusing it more closely on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

When we set up Right Here, way back in 2009, we imagined we were going to change the world, or at least the policy and practice world around young people’s mental health and wellbeing. We talked about creating a new service model around young people’s mental health that would reduce the numbers of young people developing treatable mental health problems.

Five years on and we are a lot wiser. Our original ambitions were tempered by austerity and the radical changes to the health and social care structure that came with the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Together with Mark Brown Susan has produced a series of articles, which focus upon the practical lessons learnt by Right Here about ways to manage, develop, evaluate and carry out youth work-led mental health projects for young people. Through extensive use of young people’s own thoughts these bring Right Here to life.

Susan comments, I hope some of you will get the opportunity to test these hypotheses in practice, to learn as you go, and to make that learning available to others, just as we’ve done. From my six years’ experience in the field, I’d say this is just what the sector needs.

Thanks to Tom Wylie for the initial nudge to this work and its evaluation.

Amongst the titles are:

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