Overcoming self harm
'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' Benjamin Franklin
My aim is, and has always been, to reach as many people as possible with essential mind management skills in a safe and ethical way. This was initially motivated by my own experience of poor support, 25 years ago when I suffered extreme post natal depression.
What I learned along the way is, where mental health is concerned, knowledge is power and, as Benjamin Franklin said, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'
It's fair to say, my husband has pretty dodgy arthritic knees and he's been managing the condition for quite a while by using pain killers and anti inflammatory medication after walking, to ease the pain.
But, on a recent visit to a new GP, he was given some simple advice, which seemed so obvious once it was stated. 'why not take the painkillers before you go for a walk and not after, to prevent the inflammation.'
There has been growing distress among our children and young people for quite some time. It has manifested recently into an epidemic of self harm, and teachers are becoming overwhelmed. Now, I've made a decision to get Fusion Therapeutic Coaching into schools, to offer real help and resilience training to prevent mental health problems before they ever start.
Good mind management builds resilience and it begins with psycho-education. To start to understand their growing distress, we all need to identify what is happening for our young people as they begin to mature.
Helping our children
Children's and teenagers' brains do not have adequately developed connections between the emotional and rational hemisphere for safe and effective levels of emotional intelligence (the ability to manage emotion) as the human brain does not fully mature until age 30.
That is why, in our children, we can often see the evidence of those immature connections with a kind of 'ok/not ok' mind-set. Many children and teenagers (some adults too) experience a 'F.A.T' thinking style where they Feel and Act...... then Think later.
The science bit
The real problem is, incoming information enters the emotional brain first, to engage fight or flight if appropriate.
It takes milliseconds longer for the information to reach the rational brain via the bridge between the two hemispheres, known as the corpus callosum. Then, if more time is allowed, the rational brain will communicate back to the emotional brain for context, insight and wisdom. Emotional hijacking occurs when the brain reacts emotionally in a polarised, black or white thinking style and obstructs rational thought.
Coping mechanisms like self harm are initially used as a way of managing uncomfortable emotions which the young person simply doesn't know how to process, communicate or resolve.
But, what starts out as a seemingly helpful coping strategy, can soon evolve into a negative habit or addiction as neural pathways of response begin to form in the brain and, once this road has been travelled many times, the pathway becomes embedded.
Learning the S.T.O.P* System helps overcome self harm by interrupting negative patterns, allows the brain to delay gratification and rewire itself, through its innate neuroplasticity, strengthening the inhibiting function of the executive prefrontal cortex, offering a short cut to mindful awareness....and choice of response rather than reaction.
A government report
The following quotations have been taken from Lord Layard's 2015 report on mental health and well-being in children in the UK and beyond:
'There is a massive problem.
Around 10% of the world's children today are suffering from a diagnosable mental health problem.
A central aim of any society should be that it's children and young people enjoy their lives and acquire the skills necessary to become happy functioning adults.
Mental health affects physical health. Depression reduces life expectancy as much as smoking does. It has a more disabling effect and arthritis, diabetes, angina or asthma.
A fundamental principle is that it is better to intervene earlier… But the principle of early intervention also applies to prevention.
The brain's plasticity is highest in young children… They are most vulnerable to bad influences and most receptive to good ones.
If children are happier, that is also good for their intellectual development. For example in a survey of 200 school based programs to promote the social and emotional skills, it was found that children taking these programs gained around 10 percentile points in emotional well-being and behaviour but also in academic achievement…
Schools should make the well-being of their children a major objective.'
I guess we realised, when governments finally made a financial link between the impact of poor emotional health and reduced gross domestic product (GDP), it was only a matter of time before they saw the point of preventing mental health problems rather than fire fighting after the event. They have realised it makes sense to teach good mind management skills to our young people now, not later, to overcome self harm and prevent mental health problems.
Frances Masters MBACP GHGI FRTC
The STOP System
Take a step back
Observe and scale