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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Charity has the answer to boosting youth mental health

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A charity programme to overcome family conflict could help tackle youth mental health problems in schools across Scotland

A Scottish charity working with young homeless people believes its work to help them overcome conflict with their families could help boost the mental health of young people across Scotland.

Cyrenians has translated complex brain science into easy to use resources including a website and series of videos to help explain why our minds and bodies respond in certain ways to conflict.

It has been using the Emotional Homunculous and The Brain’s Amazing Drug Cabinetresource within the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR), which is run by the charity.

It has found that people across all age groups respond really well to improving their understanding of how the brain works.

Using clear illustrations the website explains what happens when the human brain goes into different modes such as rest and digest, alert and engaged, anxious and afraid, fight or flight, and freeze and shutdown. It explains what brain chemicals such as oxytocin, cortisol and serotonin are and how they impact on behaviour.

Now a report into the effectiveness of the programme suggests it could be rolled out to schools across the country to help boost the mental health of young people.

A better understanding of ourselves and others can ultimately help us to have better relationships, less conflict and reduce stress - Diane Marr, SCCR

SCCR development manager Diane Marr said: “We wanted to help people better understand their inner self and how, combined with the chemicals in our brain, this shapes how we learn and react with the world around us. A better understanding of ourselves and others can ultimately help us to have better relationships, less conflict and reduce stress.

“Our core work at the SCCR centres on reducing the impact of conflict, which can lead to problems with mental health, relationship breakdown and youth homelessness. But what’s become clear over the past nine months is how these resources have a universal, practical use across many professions and generations. We have reports of them being used to tackle not just social concerns around family conflict and youth homelessness but also support programmes involving mental and physical health and wellbeing, exploring toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences and helping kinship carers and foster parents.”

Since the launch of the website in January this year 3,320 people have accessed the Emotional Homunculus resources online, 195 resource packs have been sent out to 98 professionals working with families and the SCCR has held ten specialist events across Scotland, working in 20 local authorities and with almost 100 organisations. It has also been accessed from 94 countries including Peru, Australia and India.

Professionals using the SCCR’s materials and training have supported the call for the resources to be integrated into learning for all young people.

Gordon McKinlay, head of schools at Renfrewshire Council, said: “Children come to school with all sorts of emotions, and from all sorts of circumstances. Whether teachers are aware of children with recognised Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or trying to get it right for every child, an understanding of conflict ensures our children are all able to learn.”

Every year across Scotland, just over 4,100 young people become homeless due to family relationship breakdown. On top of this, 76% of parents and 30% of young people said that arguments at home have affected their mental health.

Ahead of a parliamentary reception promoting SCCR’s work, the Scottish Government minister for children and young people, Maree Todd, said: “This project has delivered real value to young people and their families this year – the Year of Young People. The Scottish Government recognises the importance of creating and maintaining healthy relationships within families and communities, and I commend the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution for delivering high-quality innovative resources and making them freely accessible to everyone.”