Hi! I’m Jen Daffin and I work in Child and Family Psychology in Mental Health for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, in a team called Gwent Community Psychology. I’m a clinical psychologist and I work across Newport. Officially clinical psychologists are trained to work with individuals of different ages with behavioural, emotional, and/or psychological distress, disrupting their everyday lives and well-being. In reality, we have moved away from working solely at the individual level because there is a growing understanding that mental health issues are not about what’s wrong with people but what’s happened to them. This means that often the solutions are not within the person but their environments and circumstances.

So to understand mental health we need first to look at our circumstances. We do this by seeing what is going on around the person, do they have a safe home, food to eat, can they go to school, are they being bullied or discriminated against, or are they worried about things that are happening to them or in their family?  It means asking what has happened to you. Not what is wrong with you. Many children and young people growing up in these circumstances are powerless to change them. They will not be in a position to ‘think their way out of their problems’ through the use of traditional psychological therapies in far away hospitals. They are in survival mode, as are their families. In Gwent Community Psychology are working to develop new ways of working alongside children and their families in their communities as well as to help others in their lives, such as their teachers or social workers to create the right psychological conditions so children, families, and communities can thrive.

This is how I came to work alongside the guys at GX. They have a similar mindset and values base. It made sense for us to link up! Part of my involvement with GX was sharing information and knowledge about trauma and adversity and its’ impacts on people and communities. Helping them thing about how to include this in their activities and stuff they do. We also spoke about how systemic injustice in services means they often re-traumatise people by holding negative believes, going about things the wrong way or focusing on the wrong things. We need to find ways to change this. 

What can/should we do about it? Firstly we can educate ourselves about these things. For example, check out what Oprah has to say in this video. We need to know it’s OK to talk about our mental health. That doesn’t mean we’re weak or broken, useless or rubbish. We all have emotional reactions to things and need to look after our emotional health. We need to look after each other and get smarter about helping each other out with our emotional health too. Mental health is not a DIY project! 

We also need politicians and decisions makers to help make things that create the conditions for good psychosocial health. That helps us feel safe, that we belong, have a real purpose or meaning and sense of community in our lives and that is built on trust. 

If you want to find out more about our work you can find me at @jendaffin and follow us on twitter @gwentcommpsych 

Thanks for reading!