Gede’s Managing Director, John Minto, attended an important “Mental Health Matters” meeting at the RSA in London on Thursday, 13th October, 2016. Key speakers included Lord Victor Adebowale (CEO of Turning Point (a major UK charity which offers services for those suffering from mental illness and learning difficulties), Sarah Brennan (CEO of Young Minds) and Jonny Brennan (mental health campaigner), who focused on the rising tide of mental illness within young people, largely within the context of high income countries where social media, bullying and a culture of high achievement in schools is producing a generation of youngsters bedevilled by issues such as stress, depression, substance abuse and, in extreme cases, suicide.
One of the key areas of interest for Gede was the discussion on why so many mental health agencies focus almost exclusively on treatment rather than on a balanced approach which would include prevention and stigma reduction. Speakers and members of the audience noted with some concern that Schools all around the world tend to focus on high academic attainment and physical health – without any recognition of mental stress which ‘School’ and teenage years in particular can bring. Calls for mental health to be incorporated into Schools (and this need not be expensive – simple early years lessons in ‘mindfulness’ have been shown to be highly effective) from the earliest ages were also supported with calls for ICT to also be engaged – any mental health initiative without a digital component is likely to fail for the vast majority of children and young people living in richer countries and as the internet makes its way across low and middle income countries, this tenet will almost certainly hold true.
Discussions also centred around the stigmatising nature of seeking mental health support, with a consideration of the Australian model which has ‘made fashionable’ mental health care and support for teenagers through their ‘Headspace’ programme. One key issue cannot be denied – without a consideration of positive mental health in young people, all societies are simply storing up expensive problems for the future.