"A theoretical model or framework, no matter how amazing, is usless unless you can put it into practice."
- Jane Burns
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the event organisers.
There were a number of masterclass to choose from (see my preview of Masterclass day here) and for me, Jane Burns' masterclass around digital wellbeing was the one that stood out as being genuinely important, not just for education, but socially as well. The day did not, however, start out particulalry pleasantly.
I did eventually make it to EduTECH and found that I was with around thirty or so other delegates to hear Jane speak about digital wellbeing. Overall, the day was very interesting. The statistics were largely depressing, however, not surprising; and we were provided with a range of options, tools and strategies for workign with students to deal with mental health and wellbeing through digital tools.
Jane was upfront in that she did not want to spend the whole day talking, and so after introducing the PERMA model to us, she asked us to brainstorm about words, ideas, emojis that come to mind for each of the keywords that make up PERMA.
This was a very interesting excercise and the ideas that the group I was with were quite varied.
The PERMA model, we were told, was developed by Martin Seligman (watch a TED Talk he delivered on the concept here) and provides a way of thinking about issues that arise. as we went around the room, sharing our ideas on each of the keywords in PERMA, an underlying theme emerged; generally, there seemed to be a theme that accountability, when coupled with appropriate support, created an environment where mental health was more achievable consistently. However, Jane pointed out that PERMA is a theoretical framework and that irrespective of how good/nice any theoretical framework is, unless it can be put into practice than it is useless.
Jane then moved onto Paula Robinsons's Mental Fitness framework, which was something that I had not heard before. Jane spoke about the language around mental health and that rather than mental illness we should talk about mental health as mental illness carries a rather negative connotation and also carriess with it some help-negation history as well, wherein the more that you need help, the less likely yo uare to seek help. The conversation then shifted to considering what has changed in society that has made suicide such a prevalent option. One of the statistics that was spoken about was that one in ten students ina Year Twelve class have attempted suicide. When I look back at my classes from the last couple of years and consider that statistically, if they were in Year Twelve now, that three of them would have attempted to take their own life, that is a rather horrifying thought. You can read some statistics about youth mental health on the Beyond Blue page here. The discussion that the group was having was all predicated on the stereotype of young white male, the statistics for at-risk groups such as the Indigenous, LGBTQ, rural/remote populations are even higher.
Jane commented that having mental health issues is still seen, by and large, as a weakness. THis is despite widespread acceptness of the validity of mental health issues. Jane was asked why this is and she replied that we do not know, there are so many factors, not least of which is the historical attitudes of buck up and men don't cry that completely decry mental health as being valid. The below video has done the rounds on social media recently and it applies the language that we use about mentla health to physical health. I challenge you to really watch and listen and consider the langauge that you use and how you conceptualisemental health issues. It is quite confronting. I actually scrolled past it about halfway through the video the first time I saw it (and it is not a long video) because it was uncomfortable to watch, highlighting the inadequacy of our attitude towards this significant problem.
One of the challenges aroud mental health that Jane spoke about is help-negation theory because there is a body of research that indicates early intervention and helps significantly increases the chances of recovery. You wouldn't delay the treatment of cancer by saying I can deal with this myself so why would you delay seeking help for something else that can severly cripple or even kill you? A stark thought, but true. The attitudes of society and individuals around mental health have changed, there is more acceptance of mental health as a valid concern, however, our actions around mental health have not necessarily changed; people still do not seek help often until very late and people still receive disparaging remarks if they open up about having mental helth issues.
Jane noted that we have reached a point of saturation around awareness. The statistics have changed as awareness has increased, hwever, therewe are now at a opint where we won't see a further change, a reduction in suicide numbers for example without a change in actions. It is our actions which now need to change. Research like the Growing Up Queer report highlight that there is still a sgnificant problem with discrimination and bullying around mentla health; our actions need to change.
In 2009 over nine thousand youths (16-24 years old) were admitted to hospital for injuries resulting in self-harm.Women are admitted at two and a half times the normal rate, and Indigenous youth at five times the normal rate. If these kinds of statistics were applied to motor vehicle deaths, there would be an outrage socially, politically, and across the media, however, mental health gets a modicum of media airtime.
The conversation changed to talking about sleep hygiene and the role that technology can play in supporting mental health needs at odd hours during the night, however, I will cover that in the next article.
Thank you for reading through this, and don't forget that if you or a loved on need support there are lots of options such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, Black Dog Institute, Mind Blank, and Headspace, among many others. This is an important conversation that we need to have as a society. Engage in the online conversation through twitter, Jane is @JaneBurns and there are a range of hashtags on Twitter such as #mentalhealth, #mentalhealthawareness and many others.
If you have missed any of the articles in this series on EduTECH 2017, you can find them here.
The storifys of the Masterclass day can be found below: