The Centre for Child Mental Health (CCMH) is a London-based, not-for-profit organisation which provides continuing professional development programmes and training to school staff and other child professionals in the area of mental health. The CCMH supports those working to improve the emotional well-being and mental health of children and teenagers, including their behaviour, educational engagement, outcomes and lifetime aspirations.The training is underpinned by the latest evidence-based tools, techniques, brain science and psychological research.
Led by CCMH director of education and training, Dr Margot Sunderland, the CCMH’s mission is to break the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (stressful or traumatic events) and mental and physical health issues later in life.
The CCMH aims to make schools more nurturing environments for pupils and staff by training teachers in mental health awareness, teaching about the causes of mental health, not just the symptoms, and bringing about a culture shift in teacher well-being. The CCMH also aims to raise awareness about the evidence base surrounding emotionally-available relationships with key adults in schools and the impact this has on healing troubled children who have experienced traumatic and painful events.
On 6 July, The Centre for Child Mental Health hosted a thought-provoking conference on child and teenage anger. Expert speakers gathered at the centre in Islington to discuss the theme: ‘Angry about everything: How to connect with the vulnerable young person underneath’, in which the most effective and caring ways to tackle explosive outbursts were explored.
Blending a neuroscientific understanding of anger alongside practical supportive strategies, guest speakers presented in a broad range of styles to offer varied outlooks on the best ways to deal with child and teenage anger. Alongside helpful day-to-day tools, the conference also investigated the root causes of rage in both a school and home environment.
Anger issues such as tantrums, screaming and swearing can stem from a wide range of issues, from witnessing domestic abuse and emotional neglect, to ungrieved loss and being the victim of bullying. Although proposing different approaches, every speaker ultimately reached the same conclusion: given the correct tools and coping mechanisms, a child’s painful past can be properly addressed so that they may start to trust, grieve, and accept comfort and solace.
Tracey Godfroy, an integrative child psychotherapist and clinical supervisor, began the day’s proceedings with a thoughtful and eloquent consideration of conflict: its reasons, motives, drivers and the implications of unheard narratives. Tracey currently works at a therapeutic community for girls aged nine to 18 with backgrounds of severe trauma, abuse and neglect. She encourages the use of the arts as a medium for creative expression, as it can provide children with a valuable reflective outlet through which they can channel their emotions.
The importance of leading with empathy was a recurring theme for speakers. Dan Hughes, a leading clinical psychologist, observed that children stop being sad because they are not safe enough to be sad: a powerful reminder not to discount a young person as ‘attention seeking’ or a ‘problem child’. If families and professionals do not deal with this symptomatic behaviour in an empathetic manner, they run the risk of children exhausting themselves and those around them. By ensuring that children are provided with a healthy and secure space in which to express their feelings, not only is good psychological well-being promoted, but the risk of an outburst taking place is reduced.
Headteacher and senior trainer, Alistair Burnett, centred his talk on how to deliver discipline without being punitive by arguing that it’s possible to be both strict and kind. He firmly believes that teachers must be ‘the change’ they wish to see in their students, urging us to examine the ‘masks and shadows in both ourselves and our young people’.
The day concluded with a talk by David Taransaud, a psychotherapeutic counsellor for adolescents. David drew attention to the necessity for parents, caregivers and teachers to examine their own behaviours and engage in self-reflection before approaching potentially conflict-filled situations. His wealth of experience has taught him that before trying to manage an emotionally volatile situation, it’s crucial to ensure that we are emotionally regulated ourselves.
The conference explored the devastating effects that unprocessed trauma and unmet psychological needs can have on children, young people, their families and even the wider community. If caregivers are to engage and relate to troubled children in a meaningful way, they must do so from a foundation of empathy, trust and compassion
On 21 September 2019, The Centre for Child Mental Health London will host a conference on Sensory Attachment Intervention (SAI), an innovative neuro-behavioural approach designed to help professionals and parents address the needs of particularly troubled, challenging and hyperactive children where often all else has failed.
Led by occupational therapist Éadaoin Bhreathnach, creator of SAI, the conference will explore the connections between sensory processing and attachment issues, using moving video footage of case examples to illustrate how children and teenagers can be helped to regulate their emotions and bodies for optimal well-being and functioning.