Enabling great mental health

Many of our colleagues in Surrey are working hard to mobilise the new alliance of Mental Health services. These include our charities colleagues in the Surrey Wellbeing Partnership as well as our public sector colleagues in SABP, working in collaboration with schools, colleges and a variety of other partners across Surrey and beyond. I am very hopeful that these will make a big difference to individual children in Surrey.

And yet, even if we have the best mental health service in the world, if many of our children and young people are still living daily in toxic environments that create stress, anxiety and fear, we will continue to have a flood of children and young people accessing the service.

A great mental health service is a treatment for society’s problems, not a cure. To cure this, we need to get to the underlying causes. Why do so many of us (adults and children alike) spend so much time feeling stressed, anxious, unhappy and not feeling content, happiness, connected and fulfilled? A fear that we are not good enough… not getting the same results as Amelia in the other class, not being able to afford to go on that holiday that the neighbours at no. 44 are going on, not having the latest trainers, worrying that others are having a good time and we’re not invited. Social media and our consumerist society fans the flames of FOMO (fear of missing out), feelings of inadequacy, feelings of fear and more.

I came across some jargon that conveys this well for people in health type circles – “the social determinants of mental health”. (Not to be used down the pub!)

So, what can we do about this? I believe that we need to pick off specific issues and work on them, on a societal basis.

The way to get out of this is to provide the space and opportunity for a new dialogue. We need to try to create the conditions to have transformative conversations – one issue at a time. To be transformative, the conversations need to start with issues being experienced by children and families, not by service-led need or working in a silo. Issues such as fake news, unhealthy use of social media, consumerism and more. And they need to be started with children and families, not with services.

What issues would you add to this list?

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