Why It Matters

For Our Kids

We are in the midst of a crisis regarding the mental health of our children.

The most recent 5 Year Mental Health Report, published in April 2017, polling thousands of young Australians (age 15-19) by the Blackdog Institute and Mission Australia found an increase in psychological distress in our young people, with almost one in four young people having a serous mental illness.

In New Zealand, Health Ministry stats show demand for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has soared by 30% in 5yrs. In some areas more than 50%.

In the U.S, studies found that one in five young people show signs of a mental health disorder (US surgeon generals office)

In the U.K, a 2016 department for education survey of 14yr olds found a sharp rise in feeling “worthless and unhappy” with one in three of these suffering from depression. ¹

A Girl Guides’ attitudes survey found that mental health was one of the most pressing concerns of girls today, with 62 per cent of those surveyed knowing a girl their age who has struggled with mental-health problems. ²

Our Kids are stressed and unhappy. An entire generation appears to be not coping with the pressures they find themselves under today, and we are seeing this manifest in mental health problems.

Self harm and Suicide rates are at an all time high:

In 2006, it was reported that there was a 70 per cent increase in the number of reported cases of self-harm in British 10 to 14 year-olds, over a 2 year period ² 10 years later, in 2016, that figure is 4 TIMES HIGHER. With NHS England survey finding that one in four 16-24 year olds in the UK has self-harmed.

Prescribed medication for behavioral problems / ADHD and mental health problems are at an all time, exponential high: One study found a 274% global increase in use of ADHD drugs prescribed to kids ³

For Our Teachers

It’s estimated that 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. ¹

A survey in Feb, 2016, carried out by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that almost 90 per cent of staff have had to provide “more support” for pupils suffering from mental illness over the past two years, despite the fact that three-quarters of school leaders feel they lack the resources to meet the mental health needs of their pupils. ⁴

In a 2016 survey for Parent Zone, 93 per cent of teachers reported seeing increased rates of mental illness among children and teenagers, and 90 per cent thought the issues were getting more severe.

What Can we Do?

There are multiple reasons to debate about why this is so (follow our blog), but the fact remains that our kids are not thriving. In increasingly alarming rates, they are merely struggling to survive.

This cannot continue. Something has to change. We simply are not sustainable if ¼ of the next generation are crumbling under the pressures of the modern world.

We can’t control the external world our kids find themselves in, but we can make sure we give them the best chance at handling the pressures they find themselves under as they navigate through their future.

We’ve all heard the wisdom of, “it’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to it” that determines our mental health and formation of the Self.

As parents and caregivers, we hold immense power to make a difference in our kids lives. The young, formative years lay down the foundations for how we will respond to events in our lives. We can seize the opportunity to harness this power and transform the way our kids see the world, each other and themselves. Those of us working in the front-line with our kids have the best chance to equip them with the skills to navigate the world, deal with whatever it throws at them, and lead happy and successful lives.

We can control how we teach our kids to cope with stress and change. We can teach our kids how their minds work, what their bodies need, how to manage with social situations and emotionally challenging times. We can help nurture our kids relationships to nature and one-another. We can help shape the things our kids focus on, spend energy on and equip them decision-making skills that will impact the rest of their lives.

There’s a lot within our control and it’s crucial that we maximise the privileged relationships we hold with our kids to help shape them for success for their future in the best way we can.

Nature and neuroscience show us that when an animal is in survival mode, it’s only focus is to get itself to safety. It has no ability to think about the wider world around it. Only once it’s switched off it’s “fight or flight” automatic response to danger, can it return to tending to things outside of its self, considering those around it, or return to playing, learning or healing.

We need our kids to get out of survival mode.

We need to teach them how their nervous systems and brains work. We need them to know that when they’re operating in survival mode, functions such as thinking, learning and responding are impaired. We need them to be able to recognise when they’re in “stress” and have the tools and skills to get out of this state, so they can get their higher functions back online.

We have access to a plethora of information about our kids physical health. We know when they’re ‘under the weather’, running a temperature / “coming down with something” just by looking at them. We know what to do when they fall over, get a cut, even break a bone. First aid kits for patching up their physical bodies are commonplace.

But what about our kids growing brains? Apart from comparing ‘milestones’, how much time do we, as caregivers, spend discussing, or even thinking about, the brain? How much do we even know about how the brain works?

Our brain pretty much determines who we are and what we do. It plays a central role in virtually every aspect of our kids lives, including discipline, decision-making, self awareness, school, relationships and well-being.

The brain is significantly shaped by our experiences, and as caregivers of our children, we are largely responsible for how they experience the world.

The way we nurture and respond to our children impacts the way their brains grow and form.

When we teach our kids how to use their brains optimally we teach them how to control their bodies, their emotions, their health, their habits, their relationships, their future, their lives.

We are living in an incredible time in history in terms of development, both in the external world and the internal. Technological advances mean that we are able to look into the workings of the brain. We are now able to study the relationship between brain activity and our external realities. Discovering how much control we actually have over our mind, and our lives, is life-changing. The majority of us are abreadth the technological advances that affect our everyday lives, such as smart phone upgrades, but how many of us have learned about the latest advances in the greatest computer of all –our Brain?

The mental health crisis we are experiencing in our kids, suggests that our internal advancements aren’t keeping up with our external ones. It is critical that we teach our kids skills to enhance their brain agility, mental, emotional and spiritual health, in order that they can thrive in this world.

An Article in The Independent in Feb 2016, concluded: “In order to make a lasting difference, support for children with existing mental illness has to form a part of a wider education and open discussion about how to promote emotional resilience. If we are to tackle this current mental health crisis, young people need to be equipped with the skills to foster their own mental well-being,”

50% of all mental health problems manifest before the age of 14, 75% before the age of 25 ³

We have the power to stop the mental health crisis we are seeing in our kids. This is what Our Thriving Kids is about.

The aim of Our Thriving Kids is to grow children who have the skills not just to survive in our modern world, but to thrive.

Our kids need to be taught neuroflexibility, resilience, emotional regulation, how to take control of their brain and nervous system, and have the best skills for coping with those things they cant control. They need empathy, respect for others and the world around them. They need to feel connected to something larger than themselves. They need to feel safe, secure and supported. They need to feel loved and not be afraid of their own emotions. They need to know they are enough and are worthy of being the best versions of themselves. Our kids need to know they deserve to thrive. It is their right.

By providing scientifically proven practical methodologies, we aim to improve our kids mental health, happiness and ultimately “success” in life. In doing so we will also increase the happiness and health of parents, teachers, families, communities and society. Our kids are our future.

Research has shown that building skills in the following core areas will enhance our kids abilities to thrive, and face the growing challenges in front of them.

These areas are:

Refs:

¹ Green, H., McGinnity, A., Meltzer, H., et al. (2005). Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain 2004. London: Palgrave. See http://www.statistics.gov.uk/

² Mental Health Foundation (2006). Truth hurts: report of the National Inquiry into self-harm among young people. London: Mental Health Foundation

³ Scheffler, Hinshaw, Modrek, Levine 2007

⁴ Shah, Neha. 9/2/16, The Independent