Posted: 05 February 2016

Why we're at the Changing Minds festival this weekend

Next week is Children’s Mental Health Week organised by Place2Be, a national charity providing emotional support to children in schools. Here at The Children’s Society, we are also working hard to improve young people’s mental health.

This weekend, we have a stall at the Changing Minds festival promoting the well-being of children and young people - we hope to see you there. (Find more information about where we'll be at the festival.)

As I mentioned in my last blog, we have a long-running research programme on subjective well-being. But how does well-being relate to mental health?

Mental health research

Traditionally, research surrounding mental health has focused on mental health problems and psychopathology (psychological illnesses). This can be a very useful approach: researching problems allows us to better understand the complexities around specific mental health issues, helping us identify those with the greatest need of support.

But, exclusively focusing on mental health problems may have unintentional consequences.  The negativity surrounding 'problems' can perpetuate stigma around mental health. It can also lead people to think that mental health doesn’t matter to them, because they aren’t experiencing any problems.

As a researcher, this means that working on mental health problems is not necessarily effective or useful for everyone. Using physical health as an example, should we simply focus on treating physical illnesses, or can we go a step further and help people to live healthy? The same can be said about mental health: Do we focus on mental health problems, or can we help people flourish?

The emergence of well-being

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the positive psychology movement began to gain momentum and gave well-being research its prominence. Positive psychology is about understanding and promoting the 'positive side of life', in contrast to traditional research on mental health. While well-being is not exactly the same as mental health (improving your well-being doesn’t necessarily mean that mental health problems will be addressed), they are closely related to each other. Well-being research encourages a positive focus on your life, including your mental health.

Do we focus on mental health problems, or can we help people flourish?

As part of our well-being research programme, we’ve carried out research on ways to well-being for children and young people in collaboration with the New Economics Foundation. Our aims were to find out what children and young people can do to maintain and improve their well-being.

Our ways to well-being research highlighted five ways children and young people could improve their well-being:

  1. connect
  2. be active
  3. take notice
  4. keep learning
  5. be creative/play

All these factors were associated with greater levels of happiness in children and young people. Read more about our research on ways to well-being for children and young people.

At the Changing Minds festival, experience the five ways to well-being

A group of us from The Children’s Society will be at the Changing Minds festival to promote the five ways to well-being this weekend.

We will be running activities for you to experience the five ways to well-being, with a chance of winning a prize! You’ll also be able to pick up our parenting guide on how to support your child’s well-being.

You can visit our stall at the Changing Minds Marketplace on 6 and 7 February, from 11am-6pm. The marketplace is free to all visitors, and is located on Level 2 of the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London. 

Find out more on the Changing Minds website.

We hope to see you there!

By Emily Emmott - Research team

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