Kingston Diary - "Ac Laetari" part 2
In 1971 the country of Bhutan decided it would no longer use economic indicators such as Gross National Income to measure development and instead use the happiness of its citizens as a means of measuring progress.
The 2017 World Happiness Report recently ranked the United Kingdom as 20th out of 177 countries.
The United Kingdom was surpassed by countries such as New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Australia and Costa Rica. “What makes those countries better than ours?!” most of my students asked when I used this as a resource in a recent GCSE lesson. The answer is not simple one. There are many factors, internal and external, that make up happiness and, of course, it varies from person to person. The equation for happiness may not be agreed but the United Nations, the organisation that commissioned the Report, have decided it is related to levels of Gross National Income, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.
Unsurprisingly, the report identifies that the fraction of the population in misery would be reduced if it were possible to eliminate poverty, low education, unemployment, living alone, physical illness and mental illness. The importance of good mental health in schools and workplaces was highlighted this Tuesday during World Mental Health Day.
The mental health of young people in the United Kingdom could be one the reasons why we fail to reach top spots in many of these social development rankings. Young Minds, a UK based charity, suggest that three children in every classroom suffer from a mental health problem. A worrying statistic that will create socio-economic challenges if these problems continue unresolved. Mental health is finally getting the recognition it deserves but there is still a long way to go. There are national campaigns for physical health; brisk walks every day, healthy eating apps, ensuring you eat ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day but as yet government campaigns on mental health have not got the same airtime or even the funding. In fact, 23% of NHS activity is taken up by mental illness, mental health trusts in England have been receiving only about 11% of funding in recent years and despite being promised £280 million of extra funding for mental health services for the young, mental health remains the poor cousin compared to the spending on physical ailments. This means that the work completed by charities such as Mind, YoungMinds, SANE, ReThink and HeadsTogether; the charity founded by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, youth centres and schools such as KGS is all the more important.
At KGS we are alert to the concerns surrounding mental health and consistently strive to ensure our students receive high quality pastoral support in order to promote an atmosphere in which our children can begin discussions about this issues. The young do not attach the same stigmas to those suffering mental health as we might once have done. I am proud of our students, they recognise the importance of mental health and do not judge anyone based on their mental wellbeing. This is in part due to integration of these issues into everyday such as tutor time, PSHE lessons, mindfulness session and the experts that come to visit. They are kind and considerate and the care that our students show to each other regarding this issue is heartening.
With World Mental Health Day in mind, I hope everyone in the KGS community uses the upcoming half term break to take the time to do something creative, active or practical that will promote good mental health. The two weeks are a perfect chance to start or continue conversations with those close to you; mental health issues are difficult to solve but having some with you share your feelings with may be the first step.