14 SES 13, Children as Members of a Community: Citizenship, Participation and Educational Development - Part II: The Community of Children: Oppositional and Harmonical Narratives
Currently, ‘emotional wellbeing’ is a prominent theme in children’s public policy arenas. Largely driven by proactive networks of professional advocates, governments have invested in strategies aimed at transforming schools into psychotherapeutic environments where children’s mental health is systematically targeted and nurtured (e.g. Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning in England; Social and Emotional Learning in the United States; MindMatters in Australia; and Depression in Swedish Adolescents in Sweden). The discursive framing of such psycho-educational programmes is premised on an individualized, positivistic model of mental health that assumes its’ constituents are easily identifiable, measureable and capable of manipulation through manuals and ‘toolkits’. This also relies upon a construction of children as ‘unknowing’, passive ‘human becomings’, to be ‘acted upon’ by adult ‘experts’, rather than as active ‘beings’, capable of negotiating complex social, political and cultural worlds, engaging in transactional relationships. This presentation draws together evidence from qualitative research studies in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia to disrupt prevailing adult-centred, professional discourses of childhood and mental health, revealing the central importance of agency, community, togetherness and the relational in children and young people’s narratives of their subjective ‘wellbeing’.
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