The Independent has published an interesting article about ‘resilience’: you can read it here. The government has finally noticed the mental health crisis amongst school students, but its solution seems to be to teach children to be more ‘resilient’, rather than to stop the education policies that are causing the mental health policies. We would rather see prevention than cure!
Here is the text of the speech made by Gary McVeigh-Haye at the NEU/NUT Conference on 30 March, speaking on a motion about the crisis in young peoples’ mental health:
MOTION 20 – AMENDMENT 1 – Crisis in Young People’s Mental Health
Conference, President. I have been flown in a plane, but I’m not qualified to fly a plane. I’ve been treated by a dentist, but I’m not qualified to perform dentistry. I have received counselling for mental health problems, but I’m no more qualified to offer focussed and wholly appropriate counselling than I am to perform the former two tasks. So why would the Government so undervalue the cost of providing properly trained individuals to fulfil their ambition of having a mental health first aider in every school by 2020?
In the first year of the programme the Youth MHFA organisation has provided 100 one day training courses to around 1200 individuals. The cost of funding an individual is around £200. Conference I would suggest that to train staff to an adequate level in order to enable them to support children with mental health issues would actually cost way in excess of this amount. Furthermore, the idea of bundling around 120 staff at a time onto a one day course is never going to offer sufficient detail of training to enable those staff to fully deal with this ever escalating crisis of mental health issues in children from primary age up to university students.
Put simply, in their usual haphazard way, this Government is applying a sticking plaster to fix a gapping wound.
Conference, in order to even begin to deal with this crisis in young people’s mental health it’s not enough to look at the cure, we need to look at the roots of the problem and in doing so seek prevention.
Recently, I actually attended a very rare event for teachers. I attended CPD course that genuinely made me think. The session was based on the concept of load theory. Many of you will know that this theory is based on the capacity of the working memory and the limited information that our working memory can process. Even though there have been many creditable studies into the concept of load theory and the dangers of overloading young peoples working memories This Easter holidays children across the country are being bombarded with revision timetables, this ceaseless attack coming from all directions. Even yesterday Barnaby Lenon, Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, published advice arguing that GCSE students should be revising for seven hours a day over the Easter holidays. No wonder these still developing young minds are going into meltdown at the prospect of page after page of information pushing their working memory beyond capacity.
Conference, in 1986 the barbaric practice of corporal punishment was quite rightly banned from our schools. Why now, in the twenty first century, are we allowing a form of cognitive corporal punishment to pervade into our classrooms?
The Guardian recently published figures that show that whilst 16 million people in the UK show some form of mental illness, ¾ of these illnesses originate in childhood. Additionally, 73% of children with mental health problems are not receiving proper treatment for their conditions. Furthermore, it takes an average of 10 years for children to receive adequate treatment, and because of this we are send increasing numbers of children into adult life bereft of the personal capacity to cope with this increasingly complex world.
Conference, as teachers we implement wave one intervention in learning every day. At the frontline we also deliver wave one intervention for our children’s mental wellbeing. But now the Government must put its money where it’s mouth is and properly fund properly trained professionals to look after our children’s mental health. To paraphrase something Kevin Courtney said a couple of years ago, we know the cost of fully funding children’s mental health services, we do not know the price we will pay if we don’t properly fund this provision.