After gaining a Masters in Education with a focus on young people’s mental health needs while teaching, Valerie Bailey will be part of a team delivering programme of resilience at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School

Valerie BaileyValerie Bailey

On October 10, the world joined together in focusing on all our mental health states – such a vast and ambitious project when considering an Inuit in a fishing village in Alaska, a youngster in South Africa, or a teenager in Torbay.

Are we ever able to provide a global offer of service or rather, federate our local actions?

This pledge leads to the concept that we should all have access to the quality mental health services we need, when and where needed, without having to pay.

As we consider the plea of young people in our Bay, it is not yet quite the case! CAMHS, Checkpoint and South West Family Values all have waiting lists.

It is, however, believed that this is possible through a primary health care that adopts an encompassing approach to health and wellbeing of families and communities.

So that we can make good health for all a reality, our Government needs to invest in mental health services urgently.

If ‘nobody should be denied access to mental health care because she or he is poor or lives in a remote place’ (Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation), it was therefore of pugnacious importance that the theme for World Mental Health Day 2020 would be: ‘Mental Health for All, Greater Investment – Greater Access’.

At Torquay Boys’ Grammar School, we shared a resilience message with our students, reminding them of the four-pillars principle that I have regularly mentioned here, as developed by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.

I conducted a survey with Y11 students who were able to demonstrate how these topics work out in the reality of their lives.

During the day, students came in their own clothes, and participated in the collection led by the pastoral team for the work of YoungMinds, a national online service that makes this promise: “We will make sure all young people get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s challenges.”

Other schools in the Bay, notably St Cuthbert Mayne, invited students and teachers alike to wear yellow items of clothing, thus observing the guidelines of the #HelloYellow campaign led by YoungMinds.

At Torquay Academy, last Friday was the same as every week, Fun Friday – ‘because we all need fun in these uncertain times to support the mental health of young people’.

Speaking with my Year 9 class of 13 year olds that day, when asked what the number one reason for low mood was in young people, 24 of the 25 students named social media as the chief offender.

This, we agreed, was because parents and educators usually have no idea of what goes on behind the door on children’s blue screens.

This is a first! Our children know more than we do, as parents, educators, guardians and adults in general, about accessing a world we would never invite through our front door.

This therefore has a dramatic effect on discipline, surely?

Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, strongly advocates a regular discipline to enable what he calls as ‘firm love’ – it is only born out of love for one’s child.

Interestingly, he also advocates exactly the same message in Raising Girls, recognising that discipline is about getting involved and teaching a lesson, but not about punishment.

This is, he says, what ensures children grow with a wholesome mental health.

Where and when do we get a look in, in that mostly absent gap, between their mind and a free reign on the world wide web?

As we seek services for the ailing mental health of our Torbay youngsters and deplore the lack of local and global service, how do we take a handle on the obvious culprits: Social media and lack of healthy discipline?

Incidentally, this discussion in class took place on the same day as the Queen’s Honours List was published, and I was delighted to read that Katharine Birbalsingh, co-founder of the Michaela School, had been made CBE for services to education.

I was blessed to be invited for a visit at the Michaela School last December as one of 600 people that take a tour every year.

In my 11-year career as a teacher, I had never witnessed the atmosphere fostered in the establishment, silence in corridors, total absence of hand-held technology, whole-class repetitions, individual book work, silence during teaching and regimented lunchtimes where groups marched in the canteen reciting Shakespeare at the top of their voices.

Wait! I had witnessed this before... in 1978 when I was at school.

• To obtain the whole series of articles already published on this topic, check Twitter @vbailey63.