How can we tell our story if we’re not measuring what we do?

20141117-samir-singh-nathoo-500-x-400Samir Singh has worked on community development projects for
Arsenal in the Community – the community delivery arm of Arsenal Football Club – since 2006. He is working at What Works Wellbeing on secondment as a Clore Social Leadership Fellow, with a research focus on community wellbeing.

Now five weeks into my research at What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the time I have been afforded to step back, think about and reflect on my community-based work has been invaluable.

I am working on two distinct projects. Firstly to answer the question: “How can, and why should, Arsenal in the Community measure wellbeing?”

Secondly, I am speaking to the voluntary and community sector in Islington to find out if they consider themselves to be delivering wellbeing outcomes, even if they are not currently measuring them.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of this: the work of the Centre is rapidly evolving and the first batch of evidence from the research teams is about to be published. I have approached the secondment with an open mind; eager to learn about wellbeing, but remaining rooted in practice.

My focus is always on how a wellbeing approach can be relevant to real life for those working on the ground in the third sector. So far, there are elements that I remain sceptical about but there is far more that is very much applicable to community programmes. A real strength of a holistic outcomes approach, as opposed to narrow traditional outputs, is that any organisation can choose what is most relevant to their field of work or local community.

Because the work of Football in the Community focuses on our local area, I have become most comfortable with thinking about ‘community wellbeing’, as opposed to focussing on individuals.

Our local area – Islington – has very low wellbeing scores. This is further complicated by inner London polarity where, like wealth and health inequalities, a low wellbeing score will presumably be an average of some of the highest and lowest in the country. It is quite likely that many of the participants on our programmes will have low wellbeing scores. This shows that we are working with exactly the right communities and if we can help to impact on inequalities (in wellbeing), we are doing the right thing and moreover, contributing to Islington’s approach to fairness.

What has been a real revelation so far is that we have not been measuring what we actually do.

The RSA Connected Communities report tells us the variable most connected with higher wellbeing is feeling part of the community. This is in our name, Arsenal in the Community, yet we are not measuring our impact on connection to the community. ‘A sense of belonging’ is our mission statement, but we don’t measure our impact on this. The reason being is that it has almost been taken for granted that our projects, e.g. improving literacy, will lead to increased wellbeing.

Nor have we really been aware that a wellbeing approach is something that you can actually can measure. Much of the success of our work is based around positive relationships – for example, with our football coach/youth workers on estates – but, again, we are not measuring these.

Measuring wellbeing is also something that will help us to tell our story as well as offer better evidence of our impact.  Because the Office of National Statistics questions are based on what really matters to people, I believe our fans will understand our work and approach better if it is framed like this.

Currently, they know that Arsenal Football Club delivers community projects, but to explain their impact in terms of wellbeing will resonate. Community wellbeing outcomes (e.g. creating a sense of belonging) as opposed to an individual approach is something that fans will get. Our work off the pitch, just like when it goes right on the pitch, can lift the whole community.

There are many ways to measure impact out there and the vast choice is often part of the block to doing this in the first place. However, a wellbeing approach ticks many boxes for Arsenal in the Community.

Evidence call: evaluation reports for sport/dance, young people and wellbeing

Deadline: 7 November 2016

Evidence call for grey literature: part of a systematic review of the wellbeing outcomes of sport and dance in young people (age 15 -24 years) and the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved

If you are an organisation that has an evaluation of a sport, physical activity or dance intervention aimed at young people (15-24 years old), you can submit it to our systematic review and help us build an evidence base for wellbeing, sport and young people. We will share the findings of the systematic review with your organisation as soon as the review is published.

What’s happening?

What Works Centre for Wellbeing, with Brunel University London, are carrying out a systematic review to evaluate the subjective wellbeing outcomes in healthy young people of participation in sport and/or dance activities in club and non-club contexts. We are also seeking to establish if the informal aspect of sport or dance participation is more likely to lead to wellbeing enhancement than participation in club-based sport and dance.

What do you need to do?

Please email us any evaluation reports, or links to evaluation reports. We will then use it as part of the grey literature review of the study. By grey literature, we mean “literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles” (Lefebvre, Manheimer, & Glanville, 2008, p. 106). This may be produced by charities, government departments, businesses, community groups and others.

Please email your evaluation report, or a link to it, to:

What is the criteria?

We will accept for review and possible inclusion in our systematic review using the following criteria.

  • Submissions must be evaluation reports only.
  • Reports submitted must be completed in the past three years (2013-2016) and include author details (individuals, groups or organisations).
  • Evaluation methods may be qualitative, quantitative methods or mixed methods.
  • The central report objective must be the measurement of wellbeing outcomes and/or evaluation of the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved in sport, exercise or dance interventions.

Important note: Evidence can only be reviewed for inclusion in the work of the Culture and Sport programme if submitted through this call. Evidence submitted to individual researchers in the programme cannot be considered. If you have previously sent documents to the culture and sport team please re-submit through this call.

For more background and information about the systematic review and this call for evidence, please download:

Children’s mental wellbeing and ill-health: not two sides of the same coin

praveetha-pTo mark World Mental Health Day,  we invited Dr Praveetha Patalay to speak about a fascinating longitudinal study being carried out with children across the country. Dr Patalay is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and an honorary researcher at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS). This research was carried out as part of the CLS’ Cross-Cohort Research Programme, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

If I asked you what makes a child happy, one possible answer would be the opposite of what makes them sad. This would be considered a non-controversial response. The intuitive assumption when considering subjective wellbeing and psychological distress is that factors associated with one are associated with the other – albeit in the opposite direction. But what if we’re wrong? What if wellbeing and mental illness, or happy and sad, are not two sides of the same mental health coin?

Children's mental illness and wellbeing at age 11

We set out to investigate this question using data from more than 12,000 children born across the UK in 2000-01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). Our findings show that in children, it is sometimes the case that factors affecting mental illness also affect wellbeing (see common area in centre of the diagram above), for example, being in a single parent household, having problems getting along with peers, arguing with parents and experiencing sibling bullying are all associated with greater symptoms of distress and lower wellbeing. However, as can be seen from the areas on the left and right sides of the diagram, many things associated with psychological distress are different from those associated with wellbeing.

Differences between the factors associated with mental illness and wellbeing
Let’s first consider some of the risk factors unique to mental illness (on the left hand side of the diagram): here we see that having siblings, lower family income and chronic illness are associated with having greater symptoms of ill health. However, these factors don’t seem to be associated with children’s subjective wellbeing. Instead, children being overweight, having arguments with friends, perceiving their neighbourhoods as being unsafe, and perceived inequality (richer than their friends) are all associated with lower wellbeing (on the right hand side of the diagram).

It’s not all as we might expect
Some findings were unexpected. For example, children who perceived themselves as being richer than their friends reported lower wellbeing. Children with chronic illnesses (such as asthma and diabetes) did not report lower wellbeing than their peers. Also, we observed a reverse income gradient in wellbeing to the one observed for mental illness (in the middle area of the figure), whereby higher household income was associated with lower wellbeing when compared to children from lower income households.

The MCS data are well-suited to this investigation, as we can include in our analysis factors right from the birth of the child as well as obtain estimates that are generalizable to the UK population. Importantly, the MCS includes both measures of mental ill-health and wellbeing, which allowed us to compare in the same children how different factors were related to both these domains.

Some factors make more of a difference than others
An important element is the size of the association (represented in the black or white bubbles above each factor in the diagram). We present the extent of the relevance of each factor in terms of the percentile change they predict at the centre of the distribution of responses. The number in each bubble represents the percentage point difference that the factor makes to mental health or wellbeing. For instance, consider a risk factor (represented by black bubbles) – being bullied by peers risks lowering children’s wellbeing ranking in the distribution by an average of 10 places from the median. Some are protective factors (represented by white bubbles in the diagram) – for instance, having above average cognitive ability seems to reduce a child’s rank position in terms of mental ill-health by three places from the median rank.

If we consider the relative size of the impact of different factors, we can see that parent reported arguments with the child and problems with peers have the largest influence on their mental ill-health, followed by chronic illness and communication difficulties. Being bullied, school engagement and perceived neighbourhood safety have large impacts on children’s wellbeing. Even when looking at the common factors in the middle area of the figure that are associated with both outcomes, we see that some factors have a much stronger association with one or the other outcome, for instance, arguing with parents predicts a 21 percentile score difference in mental illness and comparatively only 2 percentile points in wellbeing, representing a negative effect that is ten times greater in terms of its impact on mental illness.

It’s important to talk to children as well as parents about mental health
Another relevant consideration in this research is who reports the children’s psychological distress and wellbeing. Children’s subjective wellbeing was assessed by asking them to rate how happy they were with six key domains in their life, including their family, school, peers and appearance. On the other hand, the symptoms of mental illness were reported by their parents, who responded to questions about the emotional and behavioural symptoms their children were experiencing. Similarly, the correlates included in the study are from various sources including official records, parents and children. Asking children for their own assessment of their mental health is important as they provide a unique perspective on their own health and when asked appropriately they are able reporters of their psychological distress and wellbeing. For instance, children’s own reports of their mental ill-health (if assessed) might have been more strongly associated with their experience of being bullied by their peers – something we do not observe here in the parent reported symptoms.

The study is published here, where details of the measures used, analysis and results can be found along with discussions about possible bias introduced by the different reporters in the two domains, the importance of considering the child’s own views on their symptoms and the implications of the findings for policy and practice in child mental health.  

We also hope our study highlights the importance of including wellbeing as an outcome in the evaluation of interventions and policies. Reducing symptoms of mental illness is not where our interest in mental health should stop if we want children and society to not just be not unhappy, but to actually flourish and lead happy, meaningful lives.

Developing wellbeing frameworks for cities and regions

Rebekah Menzies, Carnegie TrustRebekah Menzies, of Carnegie UK Trust talks about their new report that explores how local authorities can be supported by a wellbeing framework that address their particular challenges, and calls for good practice examples.

The use of wellbeing frameworks, at all levels of government and across the world, is still in its infancy. However, we at the Carnegie UK Trust know that implementing a wellbeing framework can have a transformative effect on governance, allowing for greater transparency and accountability, and more joined-up working and public sector reform.

We have actively supported governments across the UK to develop wellbeing frameworks to guide policy making. Most recently, the Trust has supported the Northern Ireland Executive to place wellbeing at the heart of its work through the new Programme for Government.

But wellbeing approaches shouldn’t be restricted to a jurisdictional level. The OECD describes wellbeing as ‘a description of social progress in terms of improvements in quality of life, material conditions and sustainability’ (OECD, How’s Life?). While policies at jurisdictional levels are important for these factors, individual wellbeing is also shaped at a very localised level. The Carnegie UK Trust recognises this through our work on Flourishing Towns. Where we live – the very streets and neighbourhoods – matter and have an impact on our wellbeing.

In this regard, city and regional-level governments have an important role to play in promoting wellbeing. Given the dominant focus on jurisdictional level approaches to developing wellbeing frameworks, governments at city and regional levels face particular challenges in establishing and using wellbeing frameworks.

The OECD and Carnegie UK Trust have recognised this challenge, and come together to develop straightforward guidance for decision makers in regional and sub-regional governments on the benefits, challenges and possibilities of using wellbeing frameworks in policy making. The guidance includes evidence from 16 case studies across the OECD, including regions and cities in North America, Europe and Australia that are developing and using wellbeing strategies, objectives and measures.

The guidance outlines the common steps that cities and regions across the world have taken in developing wellbeing frameworks, beginning with the process to kick-start a conversation around a wellbeing framework, to sustaining the framework over the long-term.

The process is an ongoing one, involving multiple iterations and refinements, and enduring leadership by local leaders. While leadership from the top is important, so too is continuous communication with and engagement from citizens. Meaningful citizen engagement is important to ensure community buy-in to the wellbeing framework. The guidance includes interesting examples of cities and regions that have used wellbeing to bring data collection, policy and community priorities closer together.


Figure from the report: steps to establish a wellbeing framework in a city or region


We suspect that there are more people and organisations out there using wellbeing approaches to shape their work. The next stage of the project is to gather further evidence from around the globe on using wellbeing in policy and practice at all levels – community, local government, neighbourhoods, cities and regions. We have established a crowdsourcing system to collect international examples. Our hope is that we will uncover examples of innovation, which we will share. Help us build a bank of good practice examples, and submit your wellbeing framework here.

How are we doing? ONS update personal wellbeing indicators and figures at Local Authority level

How are we doing as a nation?  How is personal wellbeing in my area?

The Office National Statistics (ONS) has been measuring wellbeing, or “how we are doing” as a nation since 2011. By looking beyond traditional measures of progress such as a healthy economy, we can provide further information on what matters most to the UK public. The Stiglitz Sen Fitoussi report, published in 2009, first acknowledged this and evidenced the increasing gap between objective measures such as economic indicators (such as GDP) and subjective measures such as individual perceptions of wellbeing and progress.

The recent update to the ONS 41 indicators of wellbeingonswheelsept16 highlights the differences between subjective and objective measures, such as

  •  unemployment levels continue to fall, but fewer people are content with their jobs
  • although there have been improvements in healthy life expectancy, individuals’ satisfaction with their health has fallen
  • despite increasing voter turnout at general elections, trust in national government is decreasing.

This is why we believe it is important to have wellbeing at the forefront of policy making, as by reporting only against traditional economic measures, we are painting a picture that may be misaligned with how people are feeling and what matters to them.

How is my area doing?

The personal wellbeing indicators are one of the important ways in which we can measure, subjectively, how people are feeling in the UK.

wellbeingmapThe local authority personal wellbeing estimates released today, with an interactive map and explorer, allow policy makers, local authorities and individuals to explore personal well-being in their area, compare to other areas and track changes over time.

Using this alternative dimension, measures of wellbeing can provide a broader picture of local and national progress.

Wellbeing indicator update → National Wellbeing Dataset

LA personal wellbeing estimates → Interactive Map  and Explorer


Guest blog: How do Mental health non-profits use evidence ?

Here, Caroline Fiennes from Giving Evidence shares findings from a new study into evidence use in non-profit services for mental health.

UK non-profits delivering mental health services are not great at producing or using scientific evidence. This is the main finding of a new study by Giving Evidence. We interviewed 12 such organisations to understand their ‘evidence system’, i.e., how evidence is:

  • Produced
  • Synthesized
  • Shared, both ‘outbound’ from them and ‘inbound’ to them – and stored.GivingE1

These nonprofits talked of their growing interest in being evidence-based and focusing on impact (and we don’t doubt them) but in practice it’s not happening consistently. Some charities said that they struggle to find and use external research about what is effective in treating or preventing mental health conditions when designing their programmes.

One reason given is the difficulty of accessing, interpreting and applying academic / independent research – for example, much academic research is behind paywalls, so charity staff sometimes resort to sneaking into their former universities to read it, and certainly much of it is pretty unintelligible to non-researchers. Another is the claim that there isn’t much research which is relevant, although that claim is disputed by some experts and researchers.

However, charities delivering mental health services seem laudably interested in the views of their service users. Three-quarters of the charities we interviewed regularly collect user feedback, and over half have done so on a large scale.

Evaluation research

About half of these organisations are producing (or funding production of) impact evaluations, i.e., investigations of the causal effects of their interventions, and many of these seem to be simple pre/post studies, which are open to considerable errors. It may be just as well that not all of them are producing such evaluations, because doing unbiased evaluation research is a specialism which most service delivery organisations don’t have. Instead, they should (we would argue) be using reliable research from elsewhere, which few are.

One charity said that:

Evidence for us is what our users say works…that is enough for us

This concerns us, because the human mind is often misled about what works and only rigorous research can reveal the reality. Happily some of the non-profits which are involved in producing evaluation research are doing so in partnership with reputable research institutions.

GivingE2Undervalued and underfunded?

Sadly some charities we spoke to seem to be being forced to produce low quality research. Several told us that funders and commissioners require ‘evaluations’ of services but only put towards them budgets too small to allow for reliable research (e.g., with adequate sample size). Most were only £5-10k, and a few were £20-30k.

For example, one charity said that is has dozens such budgets a year, which is very frustrating because individually, those budgets only allow for research that is essentially pointless, but collectively they could enable something insightful.

Adding to the knowledge pool?

About half of these charities are producing the kind of research or impact evaluations which could be useful to other organisations. Plus, reportedly, “every contract specifies different outcomes, which makes it a nightmare to aggregate”(charity interviewee) and also prevents comparisons. We didn’t have resource to look at the quality of that research, i.e., to see whether it is reliable and useful. However, dissemination of that is weak, and that’s not really the charities’ fault; there’s no incentive for them to do so, and few channels anyway.

One charity said that part of the reason they don’t publish much is that:

We don’t want competitors to pick this [our intervention] up.

GivingE3We have encountered this in other sectors and this is a major problem (not of the charities’ making).

On the upside, amongst the charities that do produce this kind of material, we found no evidence of selective publication: we had thought we might find that material which is flattering is more often published and unflattering material isn’t, which creates publication bias, but we did not find this.


Brutal under-funding of mental health

This is all in a context of brutal under-funding. Mental health accounts for 23% of the UK disease burden, but gets only 13% of the NHS budget and 5% of the UK health research budget. Moreover, charitable giving to mental health is very low: it’s only £714 for every adult with mental health problems whereas donkeys get £2,047 each.

Using evidence-based mental health research to find out what works

Giving Evidence has long said that most charities should not produce causal research, which requires expertise that they don’t have and don’t need, but rather should get good at hearing from their target users about what they want and think of what they’re getting, and then finding and using causal research about what works in addressing it. That seems to be the case for charities delivering mental health services. Some organisations help with this, such as the Centre for Mental Health, and the Mental Elf.

We recommend that mental health charities work towards (and are funded and incentivised to work towards) finding and applying the relevant rigorous research, and working with specialist researchers to produce research where none already exists. We expect to work with some mental health charities on this.

Discuss on our forum

What works in research use? from our Science of Using Science project.

Caroline Fiennes Biography

Caroline founded and directs Giving Evidence. She is one of the few people whose work has appeared in both OK! Magazine and The Lancet. She is on boards of the US Center for Effective Philanthropy, of the world’s largest charity rating agency Charity Navigator, The Cochrane Collaboration (specifically Evidence Aid). She is the Corporation of London’s City Philanthropy Coach, and writes a monthly column in Third Sector magazine. Caroline was named a Philanthropy Advisor of the Year by Spears Wealth Management. More information about Giving Evidence is at

Making Hay While the Sun Shines: Promoting Wellbeing and Emotional Resilience with Hay Festival Goers

Professor Jo Smith shares her experience of talking on wellbeing and emotional resilience at this year’s Hay Festival.

Hay blog 4

Since 2002, we have been encouraged by the Government to consume ‘5 a day’ to create and sustain healthy eating habits and this has now, 14 years later, become part of our everyday language and a metric we use for a physically healthy life. In 2008, the Government published the Foresight report on ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing’, which offered a similar guide of 5 daily tasks to help us look after our mental health and wellbeing. One key problem for Public Health  is getting this message to the general public to get it similarly embedded and implemented in daily life.

I am a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Worcester. I am also the Lead on a Suicide Safer Project working in partnership with colleagues from the University to improve the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff as well as with local Health and Local Authority Public Health partners to contribute to a ‘suicide safer’ university, city and county through a range of wellbeing initiatives. On Tuesday, May 31st, 2016, I was given the opportunity to talk to a lay audience of over 900 members of the general public on the Telegraph Stage at the world renowned Hay Festival . The talk was one of a series of 4 talks sponsored by the University of Worcester to mark its 70th anniversary  and, as a public lecture, provided an opportunity to raise public awareness about the importance of building and maintaining positive mental health to protect against low mood and other factors that may potentially, if left untreated, contribute to mental ill health and, ultimately, suicide risk.

My talk entitled ‘The Shape we are in: Building Good Hay blog 1mental and Emotional Health’  invited
prospective attendees, in the context of a hyper accelerated 21st century culture which can present many challenges for wellbeing, to explore positive strategies for handling life’s challenges based on the 5 ways to wellbeing and to develop coping strategies to build emotional resilience for dealing with negative times in our lives.

The essence of my talk was that being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem but refers instead to feeling good, functioning well and a positive evaluation of life or aspects of it where people who are emotionally healthy are equipped to handle life’s challenges and are protected by strong supportive relationships and can draw on good personal resources  and coping skills to adapt or bounce back from setbacks and difficulties in life. This doesn’t just happen but requires us to actively develop strategies in our lives to improve our emotional health, boost mood, build coping resilience and do things that contribute to overall life enjoyment and satisfaction. This includes engaging in the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’  on a daily basis as well as taking care of physical health, diet and sleep and building protective factors like strong supportive relationships, a balanced lifestyle that feeds mood and satisfaction with time off to wind down and a repertoire of stress and mood management coping skills such as relaxation, mindfulness, positive monitoring, self compassion to manage difficulties and reduce stress.

What are the 5 ways to wellbeing?Hay blog 2

5 different core components of wellbeing are described as important:

  • The first recommendation is to ‘Connect’ with people around you, family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, social activities in your local community. Investing time in developing and building connections and being part of a social community relating to and with others is important for wellbeing and personal support.
  • ‘Learn’ something new , rediscover an old interest, set a personal challenge, siggn up for a course, take on anew responsibility at work or home to build confidence and satisfaction and to keep our minds stimulated and active is the second recommendation .
  • The third recommendation is to ‘Be active’. We know exercise releases endorphins that positively influence mood. It is not only sport and exercise that has this effect , moving and doing something you enjoy will have the same outcomes whether it be playing a game, drama , dance, gardening, walking or just getting out and about in your locality. Exercise in its many forms helps us to feel good as well as improving mental wellbeing.
  • The fourth injunction is to ‘Take notice’ to be curious, aware of the world around you and how you are feeling, savouring the moment,  being mindful by taking time from doing to ‘being’ to sit, to notice and appreciate what is around you, to reflect, meditate, appreciate nature and everyday moments and experiences in our lives.  Taking notice is also associated with mental wellbeing.
  • The final piece of advice is to ‘Give to others’ unconditionally by looking outwards to those around us through doing voluntary work, philanthropy, small acts of kindness, acknowledging and helping others which can be rewarding, build confidence and satisfaction as well as building connections with people around us.

So are the 5 ways to wellbeing sufficient to achieving wellbeing and good mental health?

They will go a long way towards achieving a mentally healthy lifestyle but, as with physical health, it is also determined by our personal vulnerability to poor mental health influenced by a multitude of contributory risk factors including our gender and socioeconomic status as well as factors from birth and growing up such as inherited genetic risk for mental health difficulties, childhood experiences of parental discord, divorce and loss, bullying, trauma as well as issues in our current lives including living in social isolation, poverty and unemployment. The greater the number and the more severe the risk factors, the greater the likelihood of later mental health problems in adolescence/adulthood. That said, some people appear to be more resilient and against all odds survive and grow up as coping competent adults in spite of difficult growing up experiences which has led to a second strand of work where an important key to promoting wellbeing and mental health is understanding protective factors that enable us to be resilient (Mental Health Foundation, 1999, p9). This is where emotional resilience alongside 5 ways to wellbeing becomes important in terms of understanding protective factors that enable us to confront and cope with life’s challenges and to maintain wellbeing in the face of adversity and to bounce back when something difficult happens in life.

Hay blog 3There are a number of key things that help to build emotional resilience:

  • Activities that promote wellbeing including attention to physical health, healthy diet and sufficient sleep as well as lifestyle balance doing things you enjoy that feed mood and confidence while also taking time off and giving yourself a break.
  • Social connectedness including building social contacts, making time for social activities, keeping connected and not withdrawing or isolating yourself, instead, talking to others about how you are feeling and enlisting their support and help with problem solving and to keep things in perspective when you face difficult times, as well as seeking professional specialist support if problems persist.
  • Psychological coping strategies and skills for maintaining mood and confidence including ‘feeding mood’ with things you enjoy and which give you pleasure, positive monitoring of your successes, treating and rewarding self for small achievements, encouraging self compassion as well as stress management skills including relaxation, mindfulness, problem solving to manage difficulties and reduce stress during times of challenge.

There are a number of useful websites which provide free tools and advice about how to manage difficulties and reduce stress:

  • Psychology tools:  free information booklets about a range of problems including self management coping tools and advice.
  • GetSelfHelp: free downloadable self-help information leaflets.
  • MindEd for families: provides materials for parents and carers of children and teenagers struggling with mental health issues.
  • Be Mindful for guidance on mindfulness and how to find a mindfulness course.

This awareness of the need to build emotional resilience is now influencing the school’s curriculum to build emotionally resilient youngsters as an early inoculation to protect wellbeing throughout our lives.

Following the talk, I was humbled by the large number of emails I received in response from wellbeing leads in schools and other work places, teachers, counsellors, concerned parents and members of the general public telling me what they were up to locally/personally in terms of raising awareness about the importance of active efforts to promote wellbeing and build emotional resilience, thanking me for the guidance provided in my talk or looking for solutions to wellbeing related concerns.

“I sit in a deck chair in the sunshine, drinking my decaf mocha and reflecting on your talk with my husband; exactly as you suggested in your inspiring presentation…At least we know we are already on the right track in developing practices to support our mental health wellbeing and resilience!”

 “The session was great and helped me in a number of ways: through my roles at work (Champion of Wellbeing), being the parent of a son who has just completed his first year at Uni  and a daughter doing A Levels; as a sister of a sibling who is struggling; as the daughter of an elderly parent and finally as an individual who is considering retiring from the corporate world and searching for ‘what’s next’.

“Thank you for a fantastic talk at Hay yesterday. I loved your five a day for mental health and will try to fit that into everyday life.”

Clearly, the talk had struck a chord with audience members who were hungry and receptive to know more and take the ideas forward. We need to find ways to promote key wellbeing and emotional resilience messages in the general public so that the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ become as much part of the vernacular as the traditional ‘5 a day’ we have learnt to consume and use as our metric for healthy living!

Reference sources:
Jo Smith

Professor Jo Smith is Professor in Clinical Psychology and Suicide Safer Project Lead in the Institute of Health and Society at University of Worcester. She is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist and was the Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) Lead for Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, Worcester (1999-2015). Jo was formerly a Joint National EIP Programme Lead for England with the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE: 2004-2010). She has a particular interest in earlier intervention to prevent later mental health difficulties which includes an interest in youth mental health, suicide prevention and early intervention  for serious mental health difficulties.