By Kelli Schofield
I’d like to first address the question of when (how often) and where should it (“joyful living promotion”) be taught.
Let’s first consider the answers to these questions: To maximize the benefits of healthy teeth, how often should I brush? To realize the benefits of a fitness plan, how often should I exercise? The same question could be considered for, how often should I do my homework and how often should I participate in my spiritual practices? The answer to each of these questions is “regularly”. For some activities like brushing teeth, regularly means daily. Other activities such as participation in spiritual rituals might be weekly. But to do any of these activities once a year or only after a problem has been discovered, is too little too late.</p?
I believe it is the same with mental health training. It needs to be done on a regular basis, perhaps weekly. We at Music4health see effective mental health training to be in the form of support groups/training to teach positive coping skills. Ideally it would occur often enough that participants are able to build trust within their peer group. Often enough to give them resources to address their life situations as they are happening. The weekly opportunity to express oneself and address situations in a timely manner will build and deepen resilience skills. This would give children and teens a chance to deal with their problems in a positive way instead of denying and burying them where they become chronic illnesses.
Our current approach of teaching positive coping skills only in Rehabilitation facilities is a tragic loss of time in a person’s life. Rehabilitation is expensive and the damage done by negative coping skills is hard to fix. True, some learning doesn’t become effective until an individual is in crisis, and rehab facilities are a necessary step in helping these people when they might be more open to change. But consider how it might be easier for these people to recover if they have already been taught about emotion regulation or distress tolerance and had friends who are also familiar with these skills. This brings me to the question of “where”. The surest place for every child to receive support and training is where they go everyday…school. Things that are taught in school are more likely to become common topics that everyone shares an interest in. If a whole classroom of students is learning about how to express emotions, or that pain can be tolerated, the value of hobbies, or most importantly, the idea that asking for help is OK, then the taboo around mental health issues could be minimized.
Mr. Fred Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” In a perfect world each child would have family members they can trust. But in an imperfect world such as ours, peers, friends, and teachers can step in and be an important layer of “people we trust”.
If taught in schools, mental health education can start early. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I long for the day when our definition of suicide prevention is “to promote joyful living” and starts early in a child’s education in a way that offers them support that follows them through to adulthood