How do we solve the problem of poor mental health in young people? This is the question that a group of student Citizen Journalists are focusing on in Cumbria.
The journalists are sixth formers from schools across Cumbria who are asking questions of professionals, and other young people in their quest to learn more about health and wellbeing in Cumbria.
Employers want their young employees to be resilient, both physically and mentally, to become productive members of their organisations.
Universities and Colleges want students who are resilient, independent learners, who are ready to expand their minds in readiness for high value roles in the world of work.
Schools are seeking to turn out critically aware, aspirational employable students.
So why are our journalists challenging the professionals about the need for more focus on student mental health? They want access to mental health specialists, when required, and for teachers to recognise the need to develop mental fitness as well as academic excellence. It is partly funding, but also priorities; they quizzed the academics about instilling mental health awareness in their curriculums.
Given we have The Lake District on our doorstep, the natural environment is a great place to “be in the moment”, away from mobile devices, focused on what is around us. 19 million visitors from across the world value the environment; our schools don’t use it enough to build resilience and mental fitness.
Building physical fitness is about regular exercise, strengthening muscles, making fitness a habit. Building mental fitness should be seen in the same light; practising the skills to free ourselves from stress, anxiety, poor mental health.
The Chancellor of University of Cumbria, Dr John Sentanu ‘fasts’ from his media devices 3 days a week. Having a break from rolling news and emails has not yet meant he has missed anything of consequence.
One of the sixth form journalists reflected that they now did no sport at school; there was none on the timetable, and free periods are focused on more studying and school rules mean they cannot leave the building. We are limiting movement, and reflection. There is lots of great practice; encouraging active movement in primary schools, mental first aid training, creatives sharing their awareness of the inspiration of the outdoors. The challenge to the journalists is to influence the future to fit the system around the needs of young people.
Wellbeing underpins young people’s resilience, potential and future employability. By focusing on awareness of the attitudes, behaviours and skills they need, we support them to become empowered to make active choices that will benefit them and the people around them.