This week I was lucky enough to attend training to become a mental health first aider for young people. It was a hugely informative and inspiring piece of training and chimed a lot with my thinking on optimism, love and solution focused approaches. Some of my previous ramblings can be found here:
We touched on the issue of stigma and discussed how important it is to help children and young people understand that periods of difficulty, mental distress and even mental illness are far more common than they may think. Recovery is very much about recognising that wellbeing can be achieved after and even within such periods.
As the World Health Organisation says: “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
When I first applied for teaching jobs, the stigma around mental ill health was huge, largely (as I believe) in the wake of the Beverly Allitt case. She had been a state registered nurse who had committed a series of attacks and four murders involving children and babies and was believed to be suffering from the psychiatric illness Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. Understandably, medical and criminal checks were tightened up hugely in the wake of this case but it meant that anyone applying to work with children had to give information about any mental ill health dating back 10 years. Ticking a box and confessing to mild depression while at school resulted in a friend of mine almost being refused a permanent teaching contract.
Things seem to be different now, thank goodness. We still vet those who work with children and the most vulnerable carefully and sensibly. There appears to be widespread understanding today, however, that you can suffer from depression, anxiety or even more serious conditions but still cope with life, hold down a job and make a positive contribution. And there. is also recognition that you can feel happy in between the dark periods….and maybe even overcome them completely. Broken for a while is not broken for ever.
I heard the wonderful John Timpson on Desert Island Discs this week, talking about his own experiences of stress and how talking about its debilitating effects has helped both him and others. What an inspiration.
I am sure that stigma still exists in some areas but progress has been huge since my early days as a teacher. Follow the right people on social media and you will know you are not alone.
From rain there can come rainbows. Save a picture of a rainbow…. literally or in your mind…..to remind you of the beauty that has existed and can exist again.