Teenagers with mental illnesses could slip into relapse.
Did you know that about 10 to 20 per cent of children and adolescents experience mental disorders worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)? The average age of the onset of mental illness is said to be 14 years.
Teenagers who have mental illness are three times more likely to re-experience it in their adult life. These were some of the facts stated by internationally acclaimed psychology researcher, Professor Lea Waters, who had flown to Sharjah from Australia, to talk about her concept, Visible Wellbeing (VWB).
Waters took the first-of-its-kind workshop titled "Making Wellbeing Visible" organised by the Australian International School Sharjah (AIS) for teachers and parents on Thursday.
With guests from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) as well as the Sharjah Education Authority, Waters shared key visible wellbeing practices that can be easily used by staff and parents to support the wellbeing of children.
The workshop introduced to staff and parents to a whole school approach that combined the science of well-being with the science of learning.
"When we feel good we function well, and this can be better achieved through VWB, which will equip parents and teachers with a psychological tool kit, practices to recognise if their children are dealing with mental illness. Research shows that a lot of parents miss the signs of mental illness in their children as some kids internalise these issues by just nodding their heads to please others. This is where VWB comes into play. The VWB technique will help you to help your kids articulate on what's happening on their inside.
"A big part of the VWB technique is to understand the invisible which is the internal emotional landscape of a child and giving him or her a skill set to make their internal turmoil more visible. Because when they make it more visible by talking it will give teachers and parents visible signals that a child is not doing well mentally and that the issue needs attention."
Waters focused on the importance of teaching young children how to connect with their emotions. "It is important to teach children about resilient thinking, mental health first aid so they could identify symptoms of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, stress etc, and also teaching them how to reach out for help," she said.
Waters said that distress diminishes learning and anyone who experiences symptoms of mental illness is unable to achieve his full academic potential. "The VWB approach is a prevention-based approach and gives you an opportunity to front-load young people with psychological skills that help in preventing mental illness to even occur. Make wellbeing a priority in family life, in raising your children, in schools because when you get the wellbeing equation right everything flows from it."
Steve McLuckie, executive principal of AIS, said: "Wellbeing of staff and students is the most important thing for us. It is not academics, nor sports nor music or anything else, but it is happiness and wellbeing first and once that foundation is ready we can perform our best in the other spheres. When the teachers have an understanding of themselves and their wellbeing then they can implement it better on children. We believe that if teachers and staff walk in happy then that will definitely get transferred to our students."
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