Blog

International Day of Happiness 2024 (21/03/2024)

On the 19th of March 2024, I received an email from BBC Radio Stoke, asking me if I could participate in Lee Blakeman’s show the following morning. They wanted an ‘expert’ to talk about happiness, since the 20th of March is celebrated as International Day of Happiness. I thought about it for about 1 minute before I realised that this is not a situation to ponder on for too long. So, I almost immediately (after that initial 1 minute) answered yes to them.
Lee and the rest of the crew were all very friendly and welcoming, and although my feature on the show was brief without going into much detail about what I think happiness is and how certain difficulties in life could prevent or reduce the times we may experience it, it was a very enjoyable experience for me.
Thank you Lee and BBC Radio Stoke for this opportunity!
You can listen back to the show via this link (my interview bit starts from 1:38:28): https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0hdg9y7 .
You can find out more about International Day of Happiness on the United Nation’s website: https://www.un.org/en/observances/happiness-day .

Are young people “f!*ked”🙊🙆🏻🤦🏼‍♀️? – An article about a recent report on the relationship between the mental health and work outcomes of young people. (27/02/2024)

You can access this article on Facebook as well by clicking on the image on the right (or below). 👉🏼

 

A new report has been released last month (February 2024) about young people’s mental health and its potential effects on their work prospects. This report highlights that “Young people today have the (…) poorest mental health of any age group…” (young women are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from mental health difficulties than young men). One of the key findings of this report suggests that young people (between the ages of 18 to 24) with mental health problems are more likely to be out of work compared to their ‘healthy’ peers. They also found that “non-graduates” with mental health difficulties were almost twice as much likely to be “workless”, compared to non-graduates without mental health difficulties. For a younger age group (between the ages of 11 to 16), they found that about one student out of eight (approximately 12%) missed more than 15 days of school in the autumn term in 2023; whereas, the number of ‘healthier’ classmates missing 15 days of school in that term was about one in fifty (about 2%).

So, in a colloquial way, (title repetition alert) are young people “f!*ked”🙊🙆🏻🤦🏼?

No, they are not! Are they struggling? Yes, I think some young people are.

Okay, without theatrics: the report’s findings are serious; they suggest that some young people are already missing significant time off school due to mental health difficulties. In their later life, these young people may potentially experience further difficulties, such as finding a job or having a variety of options in the labour market. The transition to adulthood is already a difficult process, and mental health struggles seem to make it even more difficult for some young people.What (probably) does not help this situation is the fact that many children and young people in secondary school and post-16 settings did not have access to mental health support within school (the exact figure was 44% in 2023). What may exacerbate the difficulty for young people in having a variety of options in the work sector is the fact that those students who are not planning to go into higher education receive significantly less careers advice (in 2022, it was 22% compared to 44% of those who were planning to go to university).

In my psychological therapy practice, I work with children and young people (and adults) in and out of educational settings. Some of the issues my clients reported to me are very similar to the findings of this report. What I aim to do is to support them through therapy, but I also find it important to acknowledge that it is the adults around young people (e.g., teachers, parents, family members, professionals etc.) who have the privilege, power, and responsibility to provide youngsters with the mental health support and character education they may need to create opportunities for themselves for today and for tomorrow as well.

You can download the full report from here: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/weve-only-just-begun/

“Young people today have the (…) poorest mental health of any age group…”

“… 8 out of 10 girls, and at least 4 out of 10 boys, receive unwanted videos or pictures with explicit content …”

Is she laughing or is she crying? – About sexual harassment and online sexual abuse. (16/06/2021)
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) published a rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges. The request to complete this review came from the government after thousands of people sent in testimonies about abuse to the website called Everyone’s Invited (“a movement committed to eradicating rape culture”).
It is important to note that the review emphasized that findings should not be applied to every single school across England. It is possible that similar issues may or may not happen in other educational facilities. However, from all those schools/colleges visited by Ofsted, sexual harassment was indeed a significant problem in every single one of them.
So, what did they find?
For example, they found that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse have possibly been happening in children and young people’s lives for a long time. For so long, that many of them now are accustomed to it. The results show that at least 8 out of 10 girls, and at least 4 out of 10 boys, receive unwanted videos or pictures with explicit content “a lot or sometimes”. Children and young people in this review reported that they are so used to sexual harassment and online sexual abuse, that they do not even want to report it any more. The report also specifies reasons why they do not want to report these incidents. They said that since these behaviours do not seem like a big deal to them, they do not want to get their peers into trouble for such ‘small’ things, and they do not want to be excluded from their friendship groups either for reporting these problems. Another reason, they said, is that adults may react to such news in ways that would not encourage further reports of sexual harassment and online sexual abuse. For example, they thought that they would simply not be believed, or if so, then they would be blamed, or by talking about the incident they would lose control over the situation.
What would happen if these behaviours were reported?
I may be wrong; I suppose schools would need to investigate and if they deemed it necessary, they would need to report it to the authorities, for example the police. Ofsted also spoke to school and college leaders about it, and they said that they are unsure about what to do if a police investigation does not lead to prosecution or conviction. So, if the children/young people report sexual harassment and online sexual abuse ➡️ then schools have to investigate and potentially report it ➡️ then the authorities start their own investigation ➡️ finally, if the investigation is not fruitful, then what? As I am writing this, I am thinking about the child/young person, their families and friends who are at the centre of this potentially lengthy investigation to get ‘justice’. I imagine their psychological development may very much be different if they did not have to go through it all. I also wonder how much of the uncertainty of the outcome could discourage reports being made in the first place.
Make no mistake; schools and colleges are not in an easy position, they have to tackle these behaviours there-and-then (not even mentioning that many of these pictures/videos/comments may be sent/made outside of school; whose responsibility is it then?). I have not checked the requirements and curriculum for relationships, sex and health education (RSHE), but according to those students who spoke to Ofsted about it, they did not receive the type of RSHE that would cover their day-to-day experiences. Many students I worked with in my private practice told me before that they want to learn skills at school that they could utilise in life, such as how to pay taxes. I guess they could use a bit more updated practical knowledge when it comes to acceptable and unacceptable behaviour as well.
Shortly after I read the report, I listened to Woman’s Hour on BBC Sounds where they discussed sexual harassment in the workplace. I guess if someone learns at a very young age not to respond to/report inappropriate explicit pictures/videos/comments from others, then they may as well carry over this behaviour to the workplace. Some of the problems they were discussing on this show lie within the structure of the previous sentence: ‘THEY’ will carry over this behaviour to the workplace – ‘THEY’, who are the ‘victims’. This mentality may subconsciously put the responsibility onto the person who received the pictures/videos/comments at school or in the workplace (I guess this example may work better within the context of ‘rape culture’). No wonder why girls and boys in the review said that they rather not report incidents.
What is the solution?
It is in progress, I guess. The above-mentioned rapid review is a good start, as it sheds light on the existence of a problem (I do not think it was very much hidden before, though). RSHE training in schools is also crucial, perhaps with changes to be made to the curriculum after listening to children and young people. After all, those who want to help shape this system will only find out about what the problem is if the children and young people let them know about these. Another possible solution is to provide training to school/college staff members, so that the issues can be dealt with better there. Rehabilitation programs for the perpetrators are also a good possibility. I think it is also important to raise awareness as that could lead to words being put into practice, such as the #metoo movement (although, in Woman’s Hour they mentioned that no new law has been introduced since the movement started and effectively not much has changed, apart from the consultation that was undertaken by the government).
Personally, I think that it is a complex phenomenon/problem, and it could be approached from many different angles. I did not aim to cover every aspect of it at all, rather I want to raise awareness to the existence of the issue and possible solutions. It is certain that this rapid review shared with us some very important findings, and it could be the starting point of a seemingly much-needed change.
So, look at the picture again, do you think she is laughing or crying?