08 SES 04, Opportunities and Challenges: Working for inclusion and wellbeing in education
During XXI century, World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union (EU) has affirmed the importance of mental health, promoting reforms and good practices. In their documents, mental health is presented as a common good strictly connected to social inclusion, which is at the base of every citizen’s wellbeing. Mental health is a fundamental human right, and it is related to the promotion of social inclusion (WHO, 2001, 2007; Cattaneo & Dentico, 2013; EU, 2014).
However, the right for mental health often seems to be disregarded and betrayed: dynamics of social exclusion regarding people who live or lived mental diseases are frequent (Boarman, Currie, Killaspy & Mezey, 2010; Iancu, Bunders & and van Balkom, 2013). The promotion of social inclusion in the field of mental health, even if supported at an institutional level, struggles to be realized (Atterbury & Rowe, 2017).
The economical crisis started in 2008 in the Western world contributes to strenghten this trend, reinforcing the vulnerability of social groups already “at risk” (WHO, 2010) and generating situations of widespread disease. The crisis, from a cultural and social point of view, puts to the test everyone’s mental health: new forms of poverty, from the deprivation of relationships to job insecurity, place everyone at risk of disease and mental distress (Iori & Rampazi, 2008). Nevertheless, referring to common feeling, situations of mental disease are often stigmatized as individual and pathological problems that create a strong risk of social exclusion for the involved subjects.
Particularly, the paper will consider the situation of European youth regarding mental health issues, noting that youngsters are actuallyfacing awkward conditions in order to become adult. Referring to peculiar characteristics of its life contexts, European youth is nowadays facing multiple challenges: global and local socio-economic aspects are setting problematic terms in which, for example, to find a job, to have a family, as well as the concrete possibility to become adult (Xie, Sen & Foster, 2014). Moreover, there are other elements that characterize our contemporaneity that are considered risk factors in mental health and social inclusion, aspects that increasingly affect young people: firstly the intensification of the phenomenon of school-dropout, which causes the growth of NEET (Not (engaged) in Education, Employment or Training) (Simmons & Smyth, 2016). Secondary, as human sciences highlight, other factors can impact on young people’s mental health, for example belonging to a second or third generations of migrants, being unaccompanied migrant minors, in alliance with the related issues of class and gender inequality (West, 2016). All of these aspects are related to mental health, social inclusion and wellbeing conditions of young citizens, who risk to grow up learning to “feel bad” (Palmieri, 2012), also with reference to their educational experiences. In this framework, this project aims to highlight and develop awareness about the important contribution that educators and teachers can offer in understanding signals of discomfort in young people and in facing them in their daily practice (Malti & Noam, 2009).
Our hypothesis is that expert educators and teachers have developed a tacit knowledge on recognizing and handling, through educational and psychological strategies, those young people that show some initial signs of mental uneasiness, such as social isolation, school drop-out, or aggressive behavior. Therefore, they can prevent the growth of disease, either in school or wherever they work, with different levels of awareness. A better awareness of the educators’ and teachers’ practices can impact on the possibility to get in touch with the initial manifestations of suffering and mental illness of the young people, developing primary/secondary prevention interventions and promoting social inclusion.
Framed in a qualitative approach to educational research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011), the project will be based on a participatory method (Tolman & Brydon-Miller, 2001): in every phase, professionals (teachers and educators) will be the protagonists and co-researchers. Ideally, the project would firstly aim at an exchange of educational practices of educators and teachers in Italy, expanding secondarily it at an international level.For this reason, we are searching funding to involve professionals of two different European countries, which possibly share common social problems (high level of unemployment, migratory phenomena, poverty and social exclusion). Specific phases will be: 1. An exploratory phase will be undertaken both in a theoretical (literature review) and in a practical way (exploration of professional practices). Different professionals (teachers and educators) will be involved in interviews with the aim to explore: - The ideas of mental health, mental disorder, help-seeking that the different professionals have: naive theories, beliefs in best practices in managing mental uneasiness; ideas on the teachers’/educators’ responsibilities and on their involvement in managing these issues; - The modalities/strategies that, implicitly, informally, or even unwittingly, teachers and educators set up in their professional environments, in order to prevent mental disorders in the youth and promote their wellbeing; - The critical aspects of primary prevention in the field of mental health, with particular attention to the settings (school and educational services) where ad hoc interventions to promote mental health have been carried on. 2. Exchange of good practices (based on what will emerge from the exploratory phase), sharing models, ideas, practices about educational primary preventative interventions between professionals and researchers involved. This phase is articulated in: 3. Design and test of a pilot curriculum for educators and teachers aimed at developing: - abilities to increase reflection and awareness about meanings, experiences related to mental health and mental disorders, and to integrate them in the understanding and the development of educational strategies to promote mental health. - competences in recognizing early signs of mental uneasiness and in acting to promote wellbeing. The project started with the exploratory phase in Italy, in March 2018.
A first outcome of the project is the involvement of educators and teachers: we expect to involve at least 15 professionals in Italy and, subsequently, also in every other involved European country, with the aim to train them in mental health issues. In this way, schools and educational contexts where they work can become places where mental health is promoted and therefore social inclusion, where mental distress can be recognized and where educational professionals are able to act to promote wellbeing. If mental distress is early recognized, educational professionals can act more properly and effectively. At the end of the project, we expect to have developed a structure of the curriculum that could be repeated in order to train educators and teachers about the educational work as a primary preventive intervention in mental health promotion. Moreover, a Handbook is expected to be written in order to implement the curriculum and facilitate its improvement in other contexts: in this sense, a specific outcome of the project is the possibility to propose the curriculum in other schools/educational services and to expand the training of educational professionals in mental health issues. Accordingly, outcome of the project is also a well-thought dissemination of the curriculum in schools and in the community through cultural events for the promotion of mental health, involving the citizenship and in particular young people. The entire project represents a commitment in the professional training of practitioners working with youth: we therefore predict that it will continue to have an impact over the long term. The ultimate outcome of the project will be an enhanced awareness of the importance of educational practices to prevent mental distress in young people and therefore promoting their inclusion.
-Atterbury, K. & Rowe, M. (2017). Citizenship, Community Mental Health, and the Common Good. Behavioral Sciences and Law. 35: 273-287. -Boarman, J., Currie, A, Killaspy, H. & Mezey, G. (2010), Social Inclusion and Mental Health, London: RC Psyc. -Cattaneo, A. & Dentico, N. (2014). OMS e diritto alla salute: quale futuro, Osservatorio Italiano sulla Salute Globale. Bologna: OMS. -Denzin N.K. & Lincoln Y.S., (2011). Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks (CA): SAGE. -EU, (2014). Regolamento n. 282/14 del Parlamento Europeo e del Consiglio dell’11 marzo 2014 sull’istituzione del programma d’azione dell’Unione in materia di Salute (2014/2020) e che abroga la decisione n. 1350/2007/CE. -Iancu, Bunders & and van Balkom, (2013) -Iori, V. & Rampazi, M. (2008). Nuove fragilità e bisogni di cura. Milano: Unicopli. -Malti, T. & Noam, G.G. (2009). Where Youth Development Meets Mental Health and Education. The RALLY Approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. -Palmieri, C. (2012). Crisi sociale e disagio educativo. Spunti di ricerca pedagogica. Milano: Franco Angeli. -Simmons, R. & Smyth, J. (2016). Crisis of Youth or Youth in Crisis? Education, Employment and Legitimation Crisis. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 35(2), 136-152. -Tolman D. & Brydon-Miller M. (2001) (Eds.). From subjects to subjectivities: a handbook of interpretive and participatory methods. New York: New York University Press. -West, L. (2016). Distress in the city. Racism, fundamentalism and a democratic education. London: Trentham Books. -WHO (2001). The World Health Report 2001. Mental Health. New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva: WHO Press. -WHO (2007). Research capacities for mental health in low – and middle – income countries. Results of a mapping project. China: WHO Press. -WHO (2010), Mental Health and Development: Targeting People with Mental Health Conditions as a Vulnerable Group. Geneva: WHO Press. -Xie, R., Sen, B. & Foster, E.M. (2014). Vulnerable Youth and Transitions to Adulthood. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 143, 29-38.
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