We all feel the pressures of everyday life and whilst some people may think kids have never had it so good, it is a sad fact that mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. They include depression and anxiety and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives. Alarmingly, 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
Whatever the issues may be; peer pressure from friends about having the latest phone or the coolest clothes, or the pressure children are putting on themselves by setting such high standards, or maybe conflict amongst friends which is creating ill-feeling at school, bringing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) into the classroom, means we can enable children to develop life tools in order to cope with the obstacles and events that life brings.
CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on looking at the way we think, how our thoughts affect our feelings and impact on our behaviour. Negative life events can change our thinking styles too and if we are not aware of this, our usual, perhaps healthy and positive style of thinking can change and in turn our behaviour changes. So, if a child is thinking in a negative fashion, this can significantly adversely impact their feelings and emotions and in turn affect the way they behave.
So, should we not be looking at introducing CBT into the classroom? CBT techniques and strategies would enable children to learn self-awareness and understand themselves without the stigma associated with addressing emotions. Helping a child to realise that it is their negative ‘thought’ that is causing them to struggle with their feelings and behaviours, and that having control over thoughts is possible, would be extremely beneficial.
CBT is a positive intervention. It can address self-esteem, self-confidence building, empathy, respect, negative thoughts, effective communication, peer pressure and negative emotions such as anger. These are invaluable life skills, that can bring about a happy and healthy mental wellbeing.
A CBT programme – called ‘Thumbs Up’ has already been implemented in Wirral, where 9 to 11 year olds, are at an ideal age to begin to learn these strategies in order to alleviate the anxiety that can often be associated with the transition to secondary school. They deliver CBT in an age-appropriate fashion to reduce these levels of worry, and have seen an increase in the ability of children to cope with this leap forward in their young lives. Having achieved this major change in life and now armed with these techniques will help build resilience, awareness and possess the ability to cope with difficult situations as they arise throughout life.