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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Bethune

Vlog with Dr Lucy Foulkes

Dr Lucy Foulkes is an Academic Psychologist at University College London, a Senior Research Fellow at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and the author of What Mental Illness Really is…(and what it isn’t).

This summer we featured her book in our Teachappy Book Club. We loved it so much that we wanted to talk to Dr Foulkes in more detail about some of the ideas she presents. Here’s what she had to say...

What is Mental Illness and how does it differ from typical psychological pain?

How do we know whether natural responses to life events, such as bereavement or a relationship breakdown, are a natural response to difficult or traumatic situations or whether those responses are a ‘disorder’ or mental illness?

Find out why Dr Foulkes finds these distinctions problematic and how, in her view, we should think be thinking differently about such definitions.

What are the downsides of mental health awareness campaigns?

Whilst mental health campaigns have gone a long way in breaking down the stigma of mental illness, Dr Foulkes explores the pitfalls of such campaigns. Is there a risk that we dilute the language surrounding clinical mental health issues and what happens when there is a lack of funding and resources to back the campaigns and support those who have come forward in a meaningful way?

Is there a children's mental health crisis in the UK?

Since the pandemic, media narrative has focussed on the supposed mental health crisis that dogs the young people of the UK. Yet research has shown that this isn’t necessarily an accurate picture for all our young people. Dr Foulkes discusses the problems that arise from such a pervasive narrative and what we should be focussing on to better understand our children’s experiences.

Why are teenage years a heightened period of risk for mental illness?

50% of mental health issues are diagnosed by the age of 14 years; 75% by the age of 24. So, what is it about the teenage years that seemingly increases the likelihood of mental illness presenting itself? Dr Foulkes talks about the immense period of change that teenagers go through, biologically and socially, and whether we should be worried for our young people based on stats like these.

What are the issues with universal approaches to teaching children about mental health?

In a recent article for The New Scientist, Dr Foulkes wrote of the issues arising from universal or blanket teaching curriculums on mental health for children, including mindfulness. What are these issues and what do we need to be aware of when implementing curriculums in schools?

Why should people read your book?

We’re talking more and more about mental health but a lot of the media narrative around this issue is unhelpful or simply not true. This book aims to provide some reassurance to those experiencing mental health issues and to help people understand what the research shows and what it doesn’t. It also provides a message of hope that things can and do get better.

Have you seen our interview with Ben Levinson OBE, Head Teacher of Kensington Primary School? Find out how they have revolutionised their teaching and whole-school approach to wellbeing with their award-winning 'Curriculum K'.

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