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Resilient Young Minds Conference 2018: Tackling Mental Health issues in young people

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We are amidst a mental health crisis – according to YouGov, one in four students currently suffer from a form of mental health issue, and suicide is now the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in England and Wales.

Image credit: Emily D'Souza

Image courtesy of Resilient Young Minds

 

So, what can we do? And how do young people want us to tackle these issues?

Resilient Young Minds is an organisation that proposes a ‘revolutionary’ way to face such issues; its ultimate aim is to “enable young people to look in the direction of wellbeing”. The organisation was co-founded by The Wisdom & Wellbeing Collective, a network of ‘change-makers’ dedicated to a global shift in wellbeing, working particularly with young people in disadvantaged communities, and Coaching Connect, which supports such coaches through means of events, training, information and resources.

The Resilient Young Minds two-day conference was held in Ivybridge, Devon, on November 23rd, led by Liz Scott and Stuart Newberry of Coaching Connect. The event, which was live-streamed, featured discussion panels and inspirational talks from professionals and students. The experts present weren't searching for an external answer to the mental health issues that we are facing - rather, they were spreading the message that ‘no one is broken’ – we are our own intrinsic solution.

One of the main subject areas covered was the InsideOut understanding, which centres around the principle of innate wellbeing as being a universal constant: an essence of our true nature. This idea harks back to ancient philosophies, and is seen in many major religions and spiritual teachings.

The idea is that our understanding of our innate wellbeing can become masked by society’s definitions of what we believe we need in order to be happy: whether this is love, money or a successful job. These construe our sense of innate wellbeing, creating misunderstanding about what our true nature is – forming a ‘temporary reality’. The idea that we experience these temporary realities is also understood as an elemental truth. The InsideOut understanding, otherwise known as the Three Principles, is largely underpinned by Sydney Banks, a theosopher in the 1970s, who showed how these internal thoughts subsequently cause humans to experience this external ‘temporary reality’, in which we forget our innate sense of wellbeing.  

This understanding was referred to as the ‘diamond philosophy’ during the conference; the ‘diamond’ being the metaphor for our innate wellbeing that becomes hidden and masked because of the temporary reality that we are experiencing, i.e. society’s definitions of our true happiness. The ‘diamond metaphor’ was first thought to be coined by headteacher Terri Broughton, describing her work with a group of ‘unteachable’ students at a conference in 2017. The metaphor deeply resonated with the students of Ivybridge Community College, who continually referred to it throughout, symbolising that wellbeing should be sought internally.

The InsideOut understanding is thought to be revolutionary because, unlike traditional coaching, it isn’t an actual recognised concept or theory; it doesn’t offer tools or strategies that traditional coaching would use to enable a goal or an outcome. It instead describes and gives an account of how we operate spiritual human beings, pointing to our universally innate wellbeing – what makes us all the same. The idea is that an understanding of our true nature would surpass the goals, outcomes and problems that traditional coaching may seek – it is inferred that there is less dependence on external goals once we tune in to our true and ‘permanent’ nature.

Image credit: Emily D'Souza

 Image courtesy of Resilient Young Minds

It is important to note, however, that although the Resilient Young Minds conference has proposed a revolutionary ‘solution’, the InsideOut understanding is not yet a fully certified coaching method. However, the field is beginning to establish the methods of training and certification that primarily allow people to gain a personal understanding, subsequently leading to effectively teaching this understanding to others. The teaching is to occur and be led through personal insight. The notion is beginning to become more widely recognised, with active engagement by several organisations, including The Real Change Portal,  but, as the foundations of Resilient Young Minds ‘solution’ is based upon paradigm-shifting education, it is not necessarily going to be accepted by current thinkers instantaneously, especially given the limited research that currently surrounds it.

The most recent conference, then, largely sought to show the application of the InsideOut understanding, or the ‘diamond philosophy’, particularly by the testimony of the various speakers and the students of Ivybridge Community College. One teacher responsible for implementing the curriculum in the school showed us an extremely moving video of the touching poem she had written for her son, who had had severe mental health issues, and began to find peace when he found his ‘diamond’ after being put in touch with Stuart.

Practically, the InsideOut understanding has given students a greater understanding of how to deal with school stresses, such as exams or friendship problems. There has been academic research, carried out by iheart and  Spark, into the efficacy of this work in schools, showing a particular positive correlation with levels of students’ emotional regulation and resilience. These findings were discussed by Elizabeth Lovius at the conference. Lovius admitted that, from an academic point of view, the understanding is “lightweight” because of the lack of substantial academic evidence currently surrounding it. Furthermore, another issue with this correlational research is that the InsideOut understanding is hard to measure wellbeing empirically or scientifically; we cannot establish a cause and effect based upon internal emotions. Resilient Young Minds Conferences, then, advocate and seek to grow the substance behind the understanding.

Resilient Young Minds can be praised for the encouragement of an open and honest discussion of mental health in the school. The 15 and 16-year-old students that we met spoke very articulatory and had a mature grasp on mental health issues. Ela, Annabelle, and Lucy told us that the implementation of the philosophy in their school meant that they felt they were being taken seriously ("we’re talking to people and they are listening") and they have even spoken to their local MP, Gary Streeter, who is “really listening and understanding”.

Student Izzy even told us that she no longer suffers from panic attacks since learning of the ‘diamond philosophy’. The girls also said that the understanding has “shifted their perspective, particularly during exam week” in regards to the pressure in obtaining certain grades.

The students spoke on stage and were also a big part of the Q&A panel – it was clear that young people were at the heart of the conference, fulfilling Liz's wish to make the conference “all about students”. Throughout the two days, there were also several group discussions and activities, involving both members of Coaching Connect and the students themselves. We discussed and brainstormed ideas for several topics, including how to encourage a more open discussion in schools, and how to spread this message.

Going forward, the students have spoken about how they are going to be offering a safe and positive space for younger children in the school to talk about their worries and problems. Since the student-group was nearly all girls, they also endeavour to include more boys in this discussion, implementing male speakers in the school, breaking down the stigma that they identified as the “alpha male persona” that is preventing them from ‘opening up’.

 Image Credit: Emily D'Souza

Image courtesy of Resilient Young Minds

As well as the students, we heard from a range of speakers that advocate the InsideOut understanding over the course of the conference, including author Jamie Smart, rugby player Grayson Hart, Psychiatrist Dr. Rani Bora, and Marie Arymar of youth charity Young Devon. Each had the same core message: we have to stop teaching young people that to experience a mental health issue is to be broken.

Arymar is teaching young people that have been involved in crime that they are not ‘broken’ by society’s definitions. There is an evident self-fulfilling prophecy in this, because many of them come in and tell Arymar that they’re a victim, yet she rejects this – “I really don’t buy it”.  By pointing them back to the “self-correcting mechanism” that they have, Arymar allows these young people to see that they are “okay, not broken”. One 14-year-old client said that she realised that all she “needed to do was to be kinder” to herself – allowing her to realise her true, innate sense of self-worth and well-being.

A key speaker of the conference, practising UK psychiatrist Dr. Rani Bora, defined psychiatry as “medicine for the soul”. She said that, currently, ‘evidence-based medicine’ stems from the “body and the mind – what we can see and what we can measure”, but there’s more to it than “take this medicine and you’ll be better”.  

She believes that in psychiatry, albeit with good intentions, the question always asked is “what’s wrong with you?”, which is followed by a diagnosis and labels. There has been a shift from this, to “what’s happened to you?”, which is the recovery-based treatment for mental health. With the InsideOut understanding, which is “easier to feel than to understand”, however, Dr. Bora can point to a constant, something universally good about people that “never changes”.

For Dr. Bora, diagnosis often leads to people believing that they are “broken”. She is very reluctant to prescribe medication, which she believes should be “the last resort for under 18s suffering with mental health problems”. Instead, there is a lot of power in genuinely “listening” to people, making them less “scared” about what feelings they are experiencing; teaching them they are not broken.  

The InsideOut understanding is advocated by medically trained Psychiatrists, such as Dr. Rani Bora, and Dr. Bill Petit, of real change portal, who talks about the profound transformative effect it is having on all Mental Health disorders.

As stated earlier – the evidence surrounding the InsideOut understanding needs to continue to grow before it can become more widely used and recognised. Unless they are medically trained, InsideOut practitioners do not offer medical advice – anyone who is medically diagnosed with a condition should continue their treatment. Subsequently, the InsideOut understanding should be used with caution – it is not necessarily a medical alternative.  

The organisers of Resilient Young Minds are under no illusion that the InsideOut understanding can be spoken about as a widely recognised and researched ‘solution’ for the mental health crisis that we are facing. However, the powerful speakers, whom the understanding has affected personally, can certainly be credited for the positive and open discussion of mental health that stemmed from the event. It is empowering to think that “no one is broken” - there just needs to be a shift in our understanding. It was great to see the Ivybridge Community College students so actively involved in a discussion about young people’s mental health. There was a real feeling that those involved in the conference, both adults and students, are dedicated to the growth of the InsideOut understanding.

To learn more about the Resilient Young Minds project visit http://coachingconnect.co.uk/rym/ and for the bigger picture https://www.wisdomandwellbeing.co.uk/

For more information on the programme and how to get involved, please contact info@wisdomandwellbeing.co.uk




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