Ben Ramage

Wishaw Press - - FRONT PAGE -

Give them the tools and they can help save them­selves.

That’s the mes­sage from the con­sul­tant clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist be­hind a pi­o­neer­ing class that aims to help im­prove the men­tal health of chil­dren across Scot­land.

Jim White, for­merly of NHS La­nark­shire, de­vel­oped his Stress Con­trol classes to give young peo­ple the skills they need to help deal with feel­ings of stress, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

And while aware­ness of men­tal health is­sues has dras­ti­cally im­proved, he be­lieves giv­ing young­sters ac­tual tech­niques and skills to deal with dif­fi­cult emo­tions and live health­ier lives is the an­swer to truly tack­ling men­tal health is­sues across La­nark­shire.

“If you give peo­ple a light at the end of a tun­nel, and the tools to get there, then I be­lieve peo­ple can turn their lives around,” 60-year-old Jim said.

“The re­al­ity is life hits you hard at some point. Es­pe­cially go­ing into adult­hood, you need skills to deal with that.

“Stress Con­trol was de­vel­oped for adults and worked re­ally well but I al­ways wanted to do ealier in­ter­ven­tions.

“I chose 15 be­cause when I used to work in adult ser­vices, around 50 per cent of adults had de­vel­oped prob­lems be­fore the age of 15.

“I think it’s vi­tal to get in there be­fore peo­ple have de­vel­oped se­ri­ous prob­lems, when there is a bet­ter chance of res­cu­ing them.

“If you can get kids be­fore too much dam­age is done, you can turn them around.”

Jim spent sev­eral years as a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist deal­ing with adult pa­tients across La­nark­shire.

He left to set up his Stress Con­trol classes he hopes will bring vi­tal life skills to help more young­sters stave off neg­a­tive emo­tions that can lead them to the brink.

He said: “The trou­ble I found was CAHMS teams were only see­ing those al­ready with se­vere prob­lems.

“Through Stress Con­trol we teach Per­sonal and So­cial Ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers to de­liver an eight-week pro­gramme de­signed to eas­ily fit into the ex­ist­ing PSE timetable.

“It’s easy and it’s sus­tain­able. Once you’ve taught the teach­ers once they can con­tinue on for years.”

He con­tin­ued: “Our pi­lot study in Pol­lok cov­ered over 100 chil­dren and the re­sults were re­ally good. Hav­ing a cap­tive au­di­ence is bril­liant be­cause kids can’t dodge it if it’s part of their timetable.

“Our first trial was in Pol­lok which, like Wishaw, has some very de­prived ar­eas.

“The pupils main­tained their progress with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion de­creas­ing and well-be­ing in­creas­ing dur­ing the trial and in the next nine months.

“Pupils were say­ing it was ap­pro­pri­ate for them and felt schools should be pro­vid­ing this.

“Even­tu­ally we’d like to see it in schools across the coun­try.

“The se­nior pupils who first go through it can then teach younger pupils the tech­niques as well, as peer teach­ing can be re­ally pow­er­ful.”

The eight ses­sions cover key life themes and tech­niques to tackle each, in­clud­ing anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, ex­er­cise, fac­ing your fears, con­trol­ling panic and be­ing com­pas­sion­ate and con­nect­ing with oth­ers.

Many have been de­signed to tackle 21st cen­tury is­sues hit­ting teenagers the hard­est.

Jim said: “We have a ses­sion on the im­por­tance of sleep, which is a huge is­sue for teenagers now. They have that bloody phone next to their pil­low and if it pings at 3am they’ll still pick it up.

“An­other big theme is the de­gree of lone­li­ness kids face now.

“So­cial me­dia in a sense con­nects you to the world but in a big­ger way it is to­tally iso­lat­ing.

“Kids need to be taught about the im­por­tance of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, which adults from a dif­fer­ent era now take for granted.”

Jim also de­liv­ers the classes to par­ents, who he thinks are a vi­tal part of any child’s pro­gres­sion to good men­tal health.

He added: “We’d like to end up ex­pand­ing it to pupils, par­ents and teach­ers to re­ally tackle men­tal health across the board.

“Teach­ing in stess­ful and be­ing a par­ent is stress­ful. Par­ents are vi­tal in this and if we can help both, us­ing the same lan­guage and same skills, they can then help each other.”

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