The Scottish Government has recently set out plans to expand mental health services and with a primary focus on young people – adding funding of up to £60m for schools to support 350 extra counsellors and the provision of 250 school nurses. Since hearing this proposal I have been thinking about mental health and education and what could change.
I have been reflecting on my own experience as young person going through standard Scottish secondary education (as long ago as that was) and wondering if there is anything I would have changed and if those changes could in anyway better my mental health for the future. I don’t think more support staff would be the answer. In fact, if I knew anything about younger Kyle, I know I would have been oblivious or refusing to admit I had a problem with anxiety.
Yes, extra funding for young people is always good and having more counsellors and nurses available to pupils will always be beneficial. But in my opinion, this is not tackling the root of the problem – why are such a high number of young people suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues? And is there a way to reduce this?
My attitude changed when I went into college for an Introduction to Graphic Design NQ. I discovered my education experience was missing true creativity and self-expression, which would in time better my mental health and improve my confidence. What started as a way to get me out the house and have a little bit of independence with student loans (thanks Scottish Government!) turned into a gateway to self-expression and belief. This course encouraged creative thinking, daydreaming and exploring solutions in your own way. The programme was structured and managed with short projects but how you came to the solution would be a journey for yourself.
Is it possible to have this same approach in schools across Scotland so can we encourage more self- expression and creativity, improving the mental wellbeing of children?
There are already passionate individuals working towards a more creative education system. Orbit employees have recently chatted with Helena Good, a design tutor at Edinburgh College, who also founded the Daydream Believers program, which was setup to promote creative thinking, creative problem solving and ‘daydreaming’ in the high school curriculum. This programme has been made possible by the collaboration of different creative agencies around Edinburgh, all of which come into the classroom or welcome students and teachers into their studios.
As well as chatting, we have recently taken on Love Learning Scotland as a client. Love Learning work very closely with education systems and organisation and uses innovative ways to engage people in learning. Working from the ground level to improve the school system for all. Here is what Lynn Bell from Love Learning had to say about the topic:
“When I was young my report cards always said “Lynn is a daydreamer or could do better” … Now that daydreaming creates a 1000 solutions within my career and businesses and I realise it’s my greatest talent. It helped me create LLS where we believe that children should have access to ‘strength based learning’ regardless of their circumstances. We help children to manage their minds, create strategies for learning and how to be happy in an environment that works for them.”
My memory of high school was that of a very formulaic system which you either thrived or failed and were left behind with the non-achievers. Even the more ‘creative’ subjects like art, music and drama were focused on routine and structure and if you strayed too far away from the norm it would be not be deemed as ‘passable’. I found this pass/fail way of learning incredibly de-motivating and on reflection it would only help to create a low self-esteem and ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude I adopted in high school.
Breaking up this structure in some way to allow self-expression and creative thinking could play an important part in improving the mental health, wellbeing and motivation of young people, not only good for them, but for society as a whole.