Today, October 10th 2015 is World Mental Health Day, which is the perfect way to cap off Mental Health Week. On our television screens the ABC has provided us with Mental As – a week of shows highlighting various issues pertaining to mental health. On Q&A on Monday night, the goal was to ‘shine a light on depression’. One of the questions put forward to the panel referred to the heartbreaking and tragic suicide of a year eight student; “What advice would the panel offer to teachers and parents in supporting vulnerable young people who may feel as though they have no place to turn?” It is an important, relevant question that needs our attention.
Happy Kids DrawingI like to take a preventative approach that helps to foster mental wellness in all children and adolescents, as well as provide support for the more vulnerable. One proactive, Australian model that I use, that can be adopted by schools, parents and teachers, is The Resilience Doughnut. The Resilience Doughnut draws from strength-based research that has explored the commonalities of children and adolescents who have shown resilience whilst experiencing adversity. It incorporates both the internal factors of a child that represent resilience (a stable sense of self-worth, an elevated level of confidence in one’s own abilities and a positive perception of the abilities of those who support the child), and external resources and connections in the environment of the child (parents, peers, extended family, community, and school). The model seeks to naturally create an interaction between both internal and external factors of the child, and in the process build on the child’s internal factors. This results in a tool that empowers the child to have autonomy, life skills and faith in their surrounding human connections. Parents are also empowered by learning how they can use this same tool to actively nurture their child or adolescent’s positive relationships, and sense of optimism.
Lyn Worsley, the creator of The Resilience Doughnut, commented on the relevance of building resilience with regards to mental wellness, “The challenge in mental illness – and indeed all mental health – is to activate that supportive network around each individual to survive and thrive when confronting tough times, difficulties and daily struggles. The Resilience Doughnut model connects ordinary, everyday moments to build resilience. It offers insights for encouraging both personal growth and positive relationships. It is a wonderful tool to build a sense of hope and optimism in children, young people and adults”.
I facilitate Resilience Doughnut workshops in Brisbane that are tailored to primary school students and their parents, or secondary school students and their parents. These workshops can empower the young person, the parent and the school to recognise a child’s strengths, and to learn how to build on these strengths, whilst providing a strategy to gather connections that are protective and supportive. Where necessary, these workshops can incorporate awareness and skill building in relation to issues such a bullying or suicide awareness skills. For further details, or to organise a workshop to be held at your child’s school, please click here.
McCosker-Dell Headshot 120x180It is important for our young people to have healthy, reliable connections in a number of facets of their lives. If a child or adolescent trusts that they can rely on and safely reach out to a particular teacher, parent, aunty, grandparent, sports coach, friend, cousin, etc, they are unlikely to feel that they have nowhere to turn when they have troubles or concerns. Activating this support network around the young person assists in enabling them to feel supported, connected and feel like they can cope and problem solve when life is at its most challenging.