I finished a run on Tuesday and watched the BBC news whilst eating breakfast. There was a report about the current Grammar School debate in the UK.
I was stunned with one of the comments from an 11 year old who’s parents had invested in a private tutor for him to give him the best chance of passing the entry exam to get into the local grammar school!
He said he felt “nervous, proper nervous, stressed”! What! An 11 year old being made to feel nervous and stressed at such a relatively young age! There were other comments in the report along the same lines, plus admissions from all parents featured that they didn’t agree with the grammar school initiative, but wanted the best start for their kids. They felt stressed too and were compelled to invest to secure a place for them.
As a parent of a ten and seven year old I get that parents want the best for their children. Of course we all do. But at what point do we need to temper that and consider the effect our aspirations for them may have on their mental well-being?
On Question Time last night, again on the BBC (other TV stations are available and equally valuable), the debate continued. A lady in the audience highlighted that kids were being tutored, in fact trained, to pass the entrance exam, then under-performing once in because they were geared up to pass a three hour test, not equipped for the next five years of advanced teaching and learning! Increasing stress all round in her, the panel’s and my opinion!
It got me thinking about other things that are semi related. My wife and I are actively managing what we call device time, which includes iPod’s, tablets, PC, TV and X-Box with our kids. Managing this against ensuring they both have outdoors time for their physical and mental well-being and enjoyment. But the draw, and sometimes pressure, on kids to be online is relentless, plus it appears our two much prefer device time until we get them out in the great outdoors then the momentum swings. Convenience maybe? Stressful for kids and parents? Maybe!
Loosely related was a discussion on Facebook yesterday with friends about schools not being able to apply bite cream, in this instance, to pupils because of the strict health and safety laws governing the use of medication in schools. I say loosely connected but the outcome was most definitely an element of stress on the parents, children, teachers and support staff!
So I’ll get to the point. Are we stressing our children and ourselves out unnecessarily these days due what many will describe as progress, ambition, competition, over zealous health and safety legislation or just life in general?
Are we exposing our children to stress much earlier in life and is this going to manifest itself in increased mental health challenges in schools, colleges and the workplace. I’ll actually stick my neck out on this one and say yes, because another report last night (South Today on the BBC, sorry at it again!!!!) showcased an app for sixth form students to monitor and manage their stress / mental health! Solutions are only created when a problem needs to be addressed!
So I’m not going to throw in loads of solutions because that’s not the point of this post. My point is to understand how well schools, the health profession/service and ultimately employers are prepared and geared up to manage this apparent increase and earlier stage onset of, and exposure to, stress? Are they keeping up with the knowledge, learning, support requirements and solutions required for the increase of those that will experience mental health challenges earlier or more intensely.
I think we all know the answer to this and it’s maybe why there is a considerable additional focus and profile on mental health in all walks of life and business at present. This will naturally drag us forward initially, then manifest itself in adequate and proactive approaches, initiatives and solutions to meet the recognised and expanding demand. I hope!
Until then however, and to all employers out there; in my personal experience stress related mental health challenges increase as you get older and life gets more stressful. Add to this the effect that earlier exposure to stress is having and you could argue that personal mental health challenges are more likely to present themselves or intensify on your watch!
So how equipped are you, your managers and your employees to deal with this? What does good look like and where do you go to understand best practice and tap into existing resources? I think the answer is that this is all very much work in progress as we all lift the lid on the final workplace taboo subject and speak more openly about it.
So feel free to share your views and knowledge of the strategies, resources and solutions available currently, or in the pipeline. From my perspective you are naturally all welcome to join the Mental Health in Business LinkedIn Group and get in touch with me personally to discuss the people, conferences, resources and initiatives I am getting involved with/in, and supporting, as I journey into an area I am deeply passionate about and hoping to make a difference in – firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best.