I don’t tend to engage in politics, but today is a sad day for the mental health community. Natasha Devon MH champion and advisor to the Department For Education has been dismissed. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Natasha, for more information please read THIS embarrassing blog post. When I was going through the school system, mental health was an unknown concept and like many of my readers I struggled with my issues alone. It’s my strong belief that if we can tackle MH issues at an early age then we can stop them from developing. I can literally pin point moments from my past when I think “ah, ok that’s where it started.” So to have someone reclaim these issues and say ‘there are valid’ and ‘I DO care,’ made me feel confident that future generations wouldn’t suffer alone.
The government pledged £1.25 billion as part of an initiative to improve MH care and reduce the stigma. When Natasha was appointment to her (unpaid) role in August I was delighted. Finally children would have someone in their corner, fighting their battles on the frontline. How? Because she’s been running workshops in schools for nearly ten years, this isn’t a new phenomenon to her. As the founder of The Self Esteem Team she lives and breathes it, and teen mental in particular is very important to her.
The official line from the government is:
“An independent NHS taskforce report has been published, which recommended that a cross-government mental health champion be created – for this reason we have had to reconsider the department’s own role.”
Basically the new cross-government mental health champion position would make Natasha’s role obsolete.
However, my cynical side leads me to question whether this is really the case. For the last few months I’ve been reading her articles and the Department for Education can’t have been happy with her opinions. She openly criticises the government’s education policies and argued that the increase in testing has led to an increase in stress and pressure in schools.
Erm…. YES I would totally agree with that (and not just because I’m a Devon groupie). My best friend is a math’s teacher and last year a student wrote on a mock paper. “I can’t handle this. How am I going to cope in the real thing. I feel trapped.” Fortunately she values her students and took this very seriously. After a chat she discovered that the student in question was struggling to cope with the actual exam environment. So she did some practise with him (in her own time), to help him feel more comfortable. “You cannot apply an adult amount of pressure to a child’s brain and expect them to cope.” – ND. Many people are oblivious to the troubles faced by children these days.
She doesn’t need an official title to be a MH hero in my eyes and if I know Natasha this won’t stop her at all. She’ll keep campaigning on behalf of children who deserve to have their emotional wellbeing recognised.
I just feel extremely disappointed in the DFE and it makes me question their commitment to mental health. She was in the role for nine months, I mean come on… WTF NICKY MORGAN?!