Not much is known about Elle’s* first year. Her Mum has severe mental health problems and has lots of problems with drugs and drinking.
Elle was removed by Child Protection services from her mother around the time she turned one.
Her father immigrated from Asia. Growing up we suspect he experienced significant trauma during the long civil war in his country. Elle’s father didn’t know about Elle until after she was removed and placed into foster care. When he found out, she went to live with him together with his new partner Trisha.
It’s thought that at least half of the children and young people we work with have communications difficulties. This can contribute to feelings of anxiety and frustration that might lead to social isolation, aggression or depression when they can’t understand what others are telling them or express themselves properly.
The first Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) in Australia launched in Melbourne earlierthis year.
The FDTC is a non-adversarial or problem-solving court model and its aim is to promote family reunification or earlier permanent care decisions for families where parental substance misuse is a major contributing factor of children being placed in out-of-home care.
Whilst participants are engaged in the FDTC, they are supported to address and own their substance misuse and recovery. Intensive clinical case management and wrap-around support is provided by a multi-disciplinary team to address any number of overlapping and complex issues including substance misuse, mental health, housing, family violence, financial and parenting issues.
Conference delegates will have the opportunity to hear prominent international speakers Justice Peggy Hora and Megan Wheeler, who have years of operational experience in the FDTC sector in the US, discuss why the FDTC works and what intensive case management is all about in this particular practice setting.
There is also the opportunity to sign up for Master Classes to engage even more in depth with specific topics such as development and implementation of FDTC, evaluating success of FDTC, and the intersection between child protection and the FDTC.
Sumner Mental Health Services provide therapeutic support to the Futures Unlimited Preschools in Wellington KS. Specifically they provide support via the provision of Mental Health Case Management and a role called Individual Psychosocial Rehabilitation workers (IPR), for children classified with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED).
I observed the absolute value of the IPR role in the preschool setting as I watched an IPR with a 6 year old child with significant emotional disturbance. From the outset of allocated time, the IPR provided this child with one to one, undivided attention, co-regulation and supported emotionally and developmentally respectful redirection when necessary. Enacting her role, the IPR was regularly in physical contact with the child in the classroom.
The IPR worker scaffolded the child from activity to activity in transitions, keeping distractions to a minimum and providing nothing short of opportunities for success for the child, all of this done through largely relational based interaction and regulation.
What really stood out to me was the fact that this child, in the hour supported by the IPR was able to experience success and a baseline level of emotional regulation, contrary to descriptions that had been given of her.
Imagine the long term benefits we could achieve if our kindergarten/preschool children who struggle emotionally, received opportunities like this at the time when their brains are still actively organising neural networks. Could we start to create early changes in neural templates from over active stress response systems and emotional dysregulation to enable younger children a better platform for self-regulation?
Edited version of a post written by: Michelle (Chelle) Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and NMT Consultant, Take Two Program
When you consider the definition of wellbeing, it becomes clear that it is more than simply the absence of illness.
There are varying levels of wellbeing – languishing to flourishing.
[Wellbeing] is the subjective experience of life satisfaction, positive emotions and high levels of functioning in life.
There are many social and work benefits to a greater wellbeing.
So, what determines wellbeing?
Jo divides it into three sections: 50% set range – your genetics; although this is a huge chunk, it’s not everything! 10% circumstance – something that our culture perhaps over emphasises (your age, gender, education, income, class, having children, ethnicity, intelligence, physical attractiveness) General findings state that once you have the basic needs to live well, cars, clothes, holidays, cosmetic surgery, and education don’t necessarily increase happiness. There may always be a feeling of wanting “more” 40% intentional range – this is exciting because this is the most controllable, where an individual has the most influence. It is the ways we think, feel, and do.
Jo quotes, “Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action”. She speaks of micro-moments in our everyday lives that create significant change over time. Small thoughts, words, deeds that make a large difference in our live and the lives of others. Positive emotions, for a brief moment, broaden and “open up the world” to an individual. It broadens their thinking and behaviour. These positive moments, when frequent, broaden and transform people into an “upward spiral”.
Basically, over time, positive emotions increase work productivity, physical health, and better wellbeing.
The next activity involved getting audience members to pair up. One of each pair would be A, the other would be B. Both were told to stare at one another, stoically. Then A was told to smile. Somewhat amazingly, B smiled as a response. And vice versa, when told to do it again. (Fun fact: Adults tend to smile 40 times a day, while children over 400.)
So, try your best to smile as much as possible.
Overall, Jo’s workshop was an informative, inspiring and productive session that really did foreground some of the important issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. There were some great tips on how to maintain mental fitness, and help maintain a strong sense of wellbeing.
There are micro-moments of joy that can really create significant change over time.
This double workshop was jam-packed with interactive activities, great tips for maintaining wellbeing, and plenty of information on mental and physical health. It was so full of great ideas that the blog post will be in two parts.
It began by getting the audience members into pairs and having them complete a five-step workout:
1. Stand up and have a stretch
2. Notice what’s going on – thoughts, physical feelings, emotional feelings, etc. 3. Introduce yourself to your partner, and share something you’re looking forward to 4. Draw a portrait of the other person you see in 30 seconds – except that once the pen hits the paper you can’t look at the paper again, and must keep your eyes on the other person 5. Give your portrait to the other person
Jo explained that this was conducive with the Five Ways to Wellbeing, a workout incorporating over 500 studies. It is based on the human experience of maintaining wellbeing:
1. Being able to move
2. Tuning in (to notice thing, acknowledging the importance of mindfulness)
3. To connect with others (one of the strongest predictors of wellbeing)
4. To learn
5. To give
Jo explained that we tend to,as people, pay attention to the negatives in our life much more easily than to the positives. What we payattention impacts our performance in every day life, and therefore, our wellbeing.
Jo then spoke about positive psychology – this is changing the perception of people, by seeking what is right in their lives rather than what is wrong. This not a complete therapy, nor a traditional approach to mental health, or a ‘Pollyanna’ (always happy) approach – instead it just aims to re-focus the subject on a more positive aspect of their lives.
Technology can provide young people with the support they need outside of business hours.
After Baroness Susan Greenfield discussed some of the issues with social media, CEO of Young & Well Cooperative Research Centre (YAWCRC) Associate Professor Jane Burns, led an interesting workshop on the impact technology has on the mental health and wellbeing of young men in Australia.
Speaking from a personal perspective, Jane’s own 7-year-old son Angus, lives with autism and down syndrome, and relies on an iPad in order to communicate on a day-to-day basis.
A champion for the digital movement, Jane believes that Australia should utilise the technologies available to us today in order to provide youth with more accessible, online mental health services.
She contends that while Australia is one of the leading nations in service provision, we are living in an opportune time to decrease the still apparent disparity in health care in rural societies through mental health professional providing services online, building connections with and between young people.
Working with Movember, Beyond Blue, University of Sydney, and The Black Dog Institute, the YAWCRC conducted a national survey in 2012 to produce a research report on the impact of technologies on young men’s mental health and wellbeing.
Implementing the gold standard of survey-taking, they interviewed 1,400 young men aged 16-25 from all states and territories around Australia, of which 30% were from regional, rural or remote areas, and 2% identified as Indigenous.
Interesting stats from the research:
99% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use the internet,
95% of Australians aged 16-25 y.o. use it everyday or almost everyday.
Most are online for 2-4 hours a day,
20% are online for 5+ hours a day.
The top three ways young people use the Internet:
94% email in 2012 (up from 13% in 2008),
93% facebook in 2012 (up from 32% in 2008),
86% YouTube in 2012 (up from 7% in 2008).
How young people use the Internet:
74.8% access the Internet by phone,
69.9% access the Internet by laptop,
34.3% access the Internet by tablet,
30.8% access the Internet by desktop computer.
Where young people use the Internet:
75.9% access it in their bedroom,
56.2% access it in a social setting.
The main issues that concern young men aged 16-25:
47.6% said coping with stress,
26.6% said depression,
26.3% said body image issues,
19.3% said bullying or emotional abuse.
Finally, 42% of young men experience ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ levels of psychological distress. Young men aged 22 to 25 years consistently reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts.
Almost 1 million young men are experiencing moderate to very high levels of psychological distress. Regardless of psychological distress, use of the internet is almost universal (98%) and in similar frequency. Even with advances in mental health services, young men do not seek help and many young men are not using services until they reach crisis point.
It appears that many men who are experiencing psychological distress tend to go online and use digital tools to express, share, distribute, and discuss their issues with others in a private, confidential setting. This acts as a cathartic tool and mental wellbeing exercise that can translate into their everyday lives.
Jane concluded the workshop by stating that further research needs to be conducted, and more data needs to be collected in order to understand the effects of technology on mental health and wellbeing. She is interested in knowing how we can tap into and use gaming and social media to use and create content for mental health services.
“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy” – Albert Clarke
What is gratitude? How do we define gratitude? How has gratitude changed over time for us as individuals?
We all most likely began our life seeing gratitude as manners. As the “pleases” and “thank you’s” in life, as what our parents told us was right. Turns out, this is possibly the simplest meaning of gratitude we could have.
Opening our eyes to the power of gratitude, Associate Professor Lea Waters began by asking us to tell her what gratitude feels like. Having closed our eyes and brainstorming to find a moment when we felt gratitude or have received gratitude in our own lives, Lea then helped define this feeling of gratitude as:
“A worldview moving towards noticing and appreciating the positives in life” or
“An acknowledgement that we have received something of value from others”.
Gratitude is not just a feeling, but a reaction from a complex cognitive process. Lea explained that there is actually multiple factors that are taken into play right before we begin to feel gratitude for something, a whole judgement process considering factors such as:
Is this gift something of value?
Was it through kindness or altruism?
What is the cost of this action?
How is this impacting the person who’s giving?
However, gratitude is more than a feeling and it is more than a cognitive process. Gratitude can improve your health on all different levels. The physical findings from studying the impact of gratitude on the body has come to show that:
Help us sleep better,
Support our immune system,
Help us cope with pain,
Reduce somatic symptoms.
So remember, “If we don’t show gratitude, it’s like receiving a present and not opening it”.
Why not try the exercise yourself, close your eyes and think of something you have to be grateful for, or a time you felt grateful; then share it with us!
Presenters Michelle Clayton and Susie Richards, both Children’s Resource Program Coordinators, from the Southern and Eastern Regions respectively looked at issues of homelessness and family violence through the eyes of the children involved.
The key is that, children’s experiences of homelessness are very different to those of adults.
The important moments in this journey might be leaving a pet behind or losing a teddy bear, these are things that need to be understood by the social workers who take on these cases.
But the question is do you have the resources to make a space nurturing for a child and to make your service suitable for a child?
There are plenty of barriers in working with children facing homelessness:
Who is the client? Is it the child, his/her family or parents?,
Children aren’t often funded as clients,
Children can be somewhat invisible to the worker (as they’re often as school and cannot often be accessed on week days),
There is a belief that children are resilient,
There is also a belief that fixing the homelessness problem will fix the child (even though the trauma of such an event will impact onto the child’s life for a long period),
Parents are protective of children and generally have reasonable parenting abilities,
Children’s issues not addressed because of the hierarchy of needs within the family.
The role of the Statewide Children’s Resource Program is to try and overcome these barriers through training, much of which is offered free to agencies, and resource distribution to aid workers who are trying to engage with children facing homelessness.
The program aims to raise awareness among workers about the impacts on health, mental health, education and emotional stability that homelessness can have on a child and some of the simple things that can be done to aid kids through this time, such as having toys for kids to play with in the office.
Workers in this area need to assess their current ideas of children’s rights and their usual methods of dealing with family homelessness.
The Statewide Children’s Resource Program seeks to inspire this assessment and teach workers to improve their practice and support children who face homelessness.