Some scary mental health statistics for parents and teachers (and anyone, really)

For those of you who don’t know, I’m well into my Masters in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health. I’m studying at King’s College London (by distance) as they have onsite research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN). These areas are changing all the time and I didn’t want to be studying anything out of date. Yes, it’s every bit as hectic as it sounds but I’m really, really loving it.

There are always research projects underway at the IoPPN and last week all staff and students received an email from the Executive Dean of the IoPPN containing some alarming statistics. In the UK, 1 in 10 school students already have a mental illness and the even more alarming statistic which I had not heard previously was that 75% of adult mental illness emerges in either childhood or adolescence. Wow! Now I’m not a parent (well except to my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who certainly doesn’t have a lot of stress in his life), but I still find this figure alarming.

And I suspect that many parents are worried about this. I facilitate a lot of workshops and speak at a lot of conferences, especially around success mindset beyond resilience, and inevitably the question that probably comes up the most is “how do I teach this stuff to my kids?”. And it’s a very valid question. Last I checked, children still aren’t born with the complete works of psychology and neuroscience attached to them for parents to roll with. And, even if they were, well if psychology and neuroscience isn’t your full-time job – who has that kind of time to be across all that?

So we hear many people say they try to teach their kids resilience. And this is important. Unfortunately, we are seeing in the corporate world that the resilience that the graduates actually have when they start work is incredibly low. Upon speaking with a number of partners in law firms, where they take a number of graduates, the results seem to be the same, very little resilience. So clearly we need to go beyond resilience as the current methods don’t seem to be achieving the desired outcome – a young adult ready to deal with life’s challenges……maybe a few less trophies just for turning up…..life is usually a little more challenging than that!

Teach your children they have the ability to choose their responses to everything

This is a big one. And one that I wish was taught to me when I was at school. We now know how worry and rumination basically lead you to be more susceptible to more worry and rumination and we know where that ends up. We also know that choosing our responses to situations takes cognitive control, which unfortunately gets more depleted the more you worry and ruminate. So it’s important to give children a little of the science behind all of this so that they can then decide to choose their responses to situations.

Now sure, it’s not as simple as just telling them to do this, but there are many ways we can take children on this journey, and this is why we have started working with teachers and schools to help with this process. And understanding a little science behind why we want to do this doesn’t hurt either. Personally, I’m more likely to do something when I understand the “why” behind it, and I’m sure that many others feel the same way.

Role model the mindset you want your children to have

And it’s not just up to the teachers! Often teachers do a great job of this and then when the children get home from school they see their parents behave in a very different way. This sends mixed messages to the children and therefore makes it harder for them to embed the desired mindset.

So when people say “how do I teach this to my kids?” First step – learn to implement it properly for yourself first so that you are always role modelling the mindset you want your children to have.

And it’s not easy, so go easy on yourselves. As usual, if you would like further information for yourself or for your children, please do contact us at any stage for a complimentary consultation.