In the final part of my blog about how we can support young people and their mental health through the arts, I discuss how we have begun to embed mental health champions into our young people's delivery team as well as proactively promoting the positive impact of engaging with the music projects we already offer.
Here at More Music, the crisis has become so apparent that we have created a mental health working group to ensure that as an organisation, our staff team are as equipt as possible to support both participants and ourselves in looking after our mental health and well being.
By virture of the fact that we work with over 100 young people each week and that the NHS mental heath task force reports that 1 in 10 children aged between 5 - 16 have a diagnosable problem, we are regularly coming into contact with young people experiencing mental health problems on some level. Be this a period of self harm, or depressive thoughts, low self esteem or social anxiety, the nature of our work, the safe, non judgemental environment and the relationships we build with young people lends itself to discussions about emotions and feeings. This makes us well placed for the early identification of mental health problems and we are often a point of first contact for young people who might need some emotional support. We work closely with other local organisations such as youth services and local schools and colleges to ensure that the support we offer participants is joined up and coherant, however, more and more we are recognising that we need specific training in order offer sufficent support to our participants. Just recently, it was noted in an evaluation, that we encounter more incidents needing mental health first aid than accidents during sessions.
In line with this, members of our Mental Health Working Party have joined with over 150 other members ranging from head teachers to GP’s, eating disorder specialists to youth workers to form the ‘Mental Heath Champions Network’. Spearheaded by the Lancaster and Morecambe CAMHS team, the network aims include being proactive in the promotion of early identification of need and mental health and wellbeing, working collaboratively, sharing resources, ideas and knowledge, providing access to Mental Health Training and the development of pathway documents to mental health services for use by network members.
The benefits of joining the network are already evident as we have had access to Mental Health FIrst Aid training and have begun to skill up our young people’s delivery team working towards feeling ‘confident to promote good mental health and well being and identify problems early’.
This strategy reflects recommendations from the Taskforce in ‘Future in Mind’ (2015) where there is a call for a multi-agency approach to embedding mental health practitioners and support within all teams who are working with children and young people in order to provide early identification of need and the appropriate support.
WIth this in mind, as well as accessing the growing number professional development and training opportunities on offer, we have begun to analyse our current programme of delivery under the lens of mental health and wellbeing. This has been beneficial in terms of developing our own resources and being more proactive in the promotion of the fact that actually, the activities that we offer are great ways of promoting and supporting young people’s positive mental health and wellbeing. Playing in a band, coming to a regular session or going to a gig, all of these things foster community, friendship and support. Writing songs or the physical act of playing an instrument can be a creative outlet and release both emotionally and physically. SInging and physical musical activities like drumming and performance release feel good chemicals into the body making music good for our health.
Looking to the future, we are actively embedding mental health champions into our young people’s delivery team as well as accessing full team training opportunities to ensure we, as a team, are confident in the support we can offer young people. We are also continuously looking for new ways to promote positive mental helath and well being within our sessions, be that providing free hot drinks and healthy food at sessions or promoting the positive benefits of engaging with music or raising awareness about the potential harm of social media.
Now, more than ever with the disolution of young people’s services, young people rely on organisations like More Music for their support network. It is our responsibility to provide a environment in which young people can feel safe and supported to build the resilience needed to grow and develop holistically, as young people, young musicians and as the future.