The sacking recently of Natasha Devon shortly before Mental Health Week, (this week) has been yet another spectacular own goal by this government.
It seems she was let go because of her ability to tell things as they are. But not in a self serving…..Ian Duncan Smith – sort of way, but in a good way.
See the what Natasha said here…
Natasha was the government’s, children’s mental health tzar until she told David Cameroon and Nicky Morgan that the current statistics on children’s failing mental health are linked directly to their education policy.
The statistics are frightening.
About three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health problem. One in 10 before 25 will have an eating disorder. Childhood depression and anxiety are up 600%. Hospital admissions for self-harm and eating disorders have doubled in the last three years.
In the 1960’s the average age for depression onset was 45…now it’s 15! In addition one in three of our children will grow into adults with an anxiety disorder.
We are big trouble.
Meanwhile this government has cut £85m from child and adolescent mental health services since 2010 while continuing to test our children constantly from the age of four in the belief that we have to compete with China.
What went wrong for Natasha was that she had pointed out a deeper issue. The agenda here is not fear of future UK economic failure, mistaken as it is. It’s fear, itself.
Those of us who notice these things, who are ‘awake’, like Natasha, are seeing that unhappiness, is the only thing this policy is producing. Moreover, it is not just a general dissatisfaction or unhappiness, say like Manchester City failing to beat Real Madrid. This is a deep, penetrating growing sense of unease and disconnection from ourselves, from each other and the world…and it looks like it will only get worse.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a child the world was filled with wonder, delight, adventure and mystery. It still is, but how many of our children really notice, as they stare with apprehension and longing into their smart phones. I was lucky; the Internet didn’t exist back in the 1960’s. I had to make do with friends, my bedroom, the corner shop, school, the park, Planet of the Apes (the original) and imagination.
We haven’t stumbled into this current world by mistake. We are creating it day-by-day. Many, of us are complicit in this manufactured, managed unhappiness. It’s a world designed to ensure we feel bad, incomplete and lost.
We want to be happy. But Facebook is not where we will find it even though it seems to be constantly saying it is. Now imagine what that ‘designed’ and managed unhappiness is doing to young minds that are less able to discriminate.
So now we are now beginning to notice – because people like Natasha are telling us (as she says, she actually talks to children) along with the frightening rise in mental illness figures. It might sound ungrateful but it seems living in the modern market driven, media managed world we have made for ourselves is fundamentally damaging to our all wellbeing.
Sure, we have plenty of stuff. Our kids mostly have everything they want.
But that might be the problem. They are receiving more, more of what they don’t need and less, and less of what they do need. Cleverly, designed distraction allied with a double whammy of making our children feel bad, while at the same time pretending to offer the solution, which then makes them feel worse. Its a win-win for the government and corporations as they continue to subtlety promote, directly or indirectly, unhealthy peer pressure, advertising, porn, celebrity culture, social media, body image, appearance and bullying. And it’s this version of the world, which our children use to navigate by, in order to arrive at some meaningful sense of themselves.
What is lacking is the real thing!
The fundamentals, such as being together, helping and supporting, empathy, doing the right thing, having the support to discover who they really are and what they can do – are buried deep in everyone’s DNA. For thousands of years we have know this but letting those essential human qualities flow, truthfully into the world doesn’t really sell a cheeseburger.
That’s where we are now and I would say we are in big trouble. Our children even more so.
Natasha’s interview with Decca Aitkenhead in Saturday’s Guardian concludes with a very revealing and yogic-based observation on the nature of human life.
‘Everyone has a real them and then the person they present to the world. For some people the gap between them is narrow….for some people that gap is huge. The space between these people is where is where mental health issues arise, so that the wider the gap, the bigger the chance that something is going to happen. And I think about the gap between an A-starred exam result and an intellectual awakening; the gap between retouched images on Instagram and the faces I see in real life; the gap between fantasy lifestyles reported on Facebook, and the real lives online fantasies conceal’.
So if we are to help nullify this creeping unhappiness we need to develop and teach simple mental techniques and practices that help to close the gap between the real and the unreal and ensure our children reconnect back to what is really important. Imagine, our schools (and some are trying) being, once again at the forefront of a massive social, creative and liberating change for us all.
Surely, after all that’s what they are for aren’t they?
And then we can stop worrying about China.
With practice, we can learn to accept, observe and know this mental ‘duality’ of experience and use it to build resilience, identity, creativity, compassion and wellbeing – to discriminate.
Its called yoga or better still mindfulness meditation. The very term ‘yoga’ means to bind back, to reconnect to reduce the gap between the real and the unreal. This ancient science on wellbeing and being human are fast becoming the new science on well being and being human. At its core, yoga is all to do with reducing the gap between the inner real you and the outer imagined you.
Until one day, the merge together. The gap disappears and then your sense of being alive really takes off, as the world is navigated less and less by looking at the Kardashians and what they are doing – but more and more You and what you are doing!
Its not easy but it works!