By Nic Higham – Children and Young People Lead, CAMHeleon
This week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (5-11 February 2018). This year’s campaign is all about inspiring children, young people and adults to celebrate their uniqueness. Being at-ease with who they are is so important which is why the hashtag #BeingOurselves is being used. The aim is to help promote in young people a positive view of themselves to support them in coping with life’s inevitable ups and downs and to recognise their various qualities and strengths. #BeingOurselves is an awesome way to help us all embrace difference and to spread a bit more compassion and happiness.
Every child needs and deserves a helping hand to make sure they realise their potential. Let’s do our bit to support the young people we care for so they have the best chance to become the most amazing version of themselves. After all, how we respond and communicate with them inﬂuences their emotions, behaviour and developing character. Child and adolescent mental health (CAMHS) wards can focus on what makes them who they are and celebrate their uniqueness they bring to the ward (and the world). Our website CAMHeleon.org, which aims to inspire staff to show their true colours, can help.
Childhood is a time for exploring one’s self-concepts, discovering one’s potential and for learning how to be ourselves. Undoubtedly, identity formation is a crucial developmental task – working out what rings true with the adolescent’s evolving sense of self, including their self-perception, abilities, self-image, values, religion and spirituality, gender, sense of belonging, interests, friendships, aspirations and sexuality. On top of all of this, they face a massive series of pressures including; school stress, college, university, body image concerns, bullying, constant social media and insecure job prospects. To add to the bewilderment, the brain goes through complete renovation in the teenage years.
Mental health recovery, like human development, is incredibly personal; while there are shared similarities and milestones, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’. Mental ill health is invariably terrifying and isolating, and no young person should have to cope by themselves. Recovery is supported, not by trying to push techniques and approaches, but by meeting them exactly where they are in their unique, developing world, helping them uncover their distinctive talents and qualities. It’s about deeply honouring their journey of creating a purposeful, valued and satisfying life. The mindfulness of CAMHs staff shows respect for the uniqueness of a young person’s mind and character, and their own recovery pathway.
For a lot of young inpatients, recovery means a sense of value, and to leave the ward having had a secure and encouraging space in which to ready themselves for their next steps. Recovery is about flourishing and discovering hope. It’s about their whole lives and is possible for all. Ward staff supporting young people to form a positive view of themselves can assist them in finding the fortitude to cope with their many challenges. Confidence plays a big part. It’s not merely a personality trait, but a skill everyone can learn. Impressively, many youngsters acquire considerable expertise about their illness and develop effective ways of managing their symptoms. They’re competent individuals and they need plenty of attention and understanding, and should be always encouraged to make their own choices. Ultimately, any therapeutic work is limited unless their engaged in it. This is how we put it in CAMHeleon:
“Lasting self-esteem doesn’t just magically appear by making young people feel good or happy (wouldn’t that be wonderful?). It builds up when they claim their independence and attempt to show the world around them that they’re unique individuals with unique skills and personal qualities. When they begin to achieve things through their own effort, they blossom in self-confidence. Young people develop this healthy self-concept through managing responsibility. In turn, they learn and grow best when they feel good about themselves. Wards can create situations and activities that exploit the rewards of young people’s strengths; helping them become aware of their strengths and building from there.”
At the heart of CAMHeleon.org are many achievable uplifting experiences young people can have while in hospital. Good experiences engender feelings of success and motivation. Lots of engagement with such experiences embeds these as enduring behavioural habits. To support this, within a ward context, CAMHeleon gives the multidisciplinary team a rich selection of ideas, articles, quotes, research and resources about therapeutic CAMHS care. It looks at the things that make a positive change, putting forward small changes that have a substantial impact. Its main aim is to help staff in empowering young inpatients to take full advantage of this time away from their normal lives – to continue to blossom into who they are.
CAMHeleon is structured around 9 COLOURFUL THEMES which help teams to create a masterpiece of inpatient care from the extensive collection of resources offered:
- Caring Relationships
- Opportunity and Expression
- Leisure and Therapeutic Activity
- On and Off the Ward
- Relational and Physical Safety
- Family and Friends
- Unique Recovery Journeys
- Learning and Growth
Read more about Children’s Mental Health Week on the fab Place2Be’s website www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk