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"Crazy? So what! "- Help for students with mental health problems

"Crazy? So what! "- Help for students with mental health problems
"Crazy? So what! "- Help for students with mental health problems

Whoever was sick before will realize that – generally speaking – one receives compassion and care. Classmates might help with bringing homework or with studying together in order the patient does not miss out on too much schooling and, therefore, falls behind or, in the worst case scenario, has to repeat the year.

Students suffering a mental health problem face a total different situation. Their illness is not just as obvious; they are also on their own and more often than not are subject to harassment and ridicule from other students. Sadly, those are not isolated cases. With the project "Crazy? So what!” psychologists and health workers are trying to counteract this trend by bringing education and understanding to the classrooms.

No understanding of mental health problems - rather looking the other way

Characteristic for mental health problems is the fact, that the teenager firstly, does not feel anything and secondly, in most cases is not able to articulate his problem. The unfortunate result is that those affected feel misunderstood, cut off from their environment. Sooner or later they will be excluded and labelled as an outsider. Regrettably, the adults in the teen’s life, parents and teachers, equally look the other way. Even worse, if the mental pressure of the young person escalates to a point that all his aggressions are aimed against himself, many people just consider this as a phase in the young person’s life, which eventually will sort itself out.

Precisely this assessment can have fatal consequences: If serious problems are not detected early, they will only worsen, and over time lead to the legendary "psychiatric career." Over the coming years, this condition is bound to increase. "In health circles there is an international concern about the declining mental health of youth," said Hans Troedsson, who was responsible for the World Health Organization in the sector of youth health. He warns: "This is a ticking bomb, and unless we take action now, the likelihood is that millions of adolescents will feel the effects." Günter Paul, medical director of the Clinic of Child Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Kassel (Germany), gives us more concrete numbers. In the last year, he says, the number of students with mental health problems has risen by 20%. This study means: “Students suffer more from mental disorders than they do from infectious diseases.” - A very disturbing situation indeed.

Without help – no chance

Kathrin (33) has learned to master her life despite mental health problems. She points out that without help she would not have made it. Inspired by this support and its effect, she got involved with the “Insanely Human” (“Irrsinnig Menschlich”) Organisation. The off spin off of this organization was the “Crazy? So what?” (“Verrückt? Na und”) Project. It was initiated by Manuela Richter Werling in Leipzig (Germany) and accompanied by the local university. After the initial success, the project was extended to another 40 regions and cities in Germany. The first success was when young people got more courage to approach their teachers and ask for assistance. In addition, students who took part in the project, got more sensitized for psychological problems

Educate - sensitizing - Encounter

The school project was designed for students from grade 3 onwards. The program divides into six successive one-hour lessons. Those six hours split into the following blocks:

  • Sensitization to the problem

  • Confrontation with their own ideas about life and crises

  • Meeting with the mentally ill

The fact that the students get to know people with mental health problems provides the insight that you can overcome and master your life despite a crisis. They learn that every human being, no matter their strengths or weaknesses is unique.

Implementation in youth work

Children and youth with serious mental health problems are usually detected by other children and young people. Their behavior is labelled "strange" or "abnormal". Those students become known as aggressive, antisocial, hyperactive, insecure, etc. without other children or adolescents recognizing their mental health problem.

You often hear kids calling them “psycho” which is a rather derogative term. The reality though is; children using this stigmatizing phrase rarely thought through that the other child might suffer from an illness and only states what, to them, is obvious - this kid is a little weird.

However, as soon as those kids/teens realize that there is an underlying, serious psychological problem, it will create a vacuum of insecurity and awkwardness as how to approach “those” people.

One from of insecurity is shunning. In the best scenario, this person is avoided or left alone. Often, however, they are labelled as “Psycho”, “Crazy” or “not quite right in the head”. This stigmatizing of afflicted children impacts heavily on their wellbeing. Instead of help and support they receive exclusion and avoidance.

Youth leaders with mental health problems

The fact that there are youth workers who have to deal with mental health problems leads to even more insecurity. This insecurity may be raised by other youth workers, the organization as well as by parents. Those youth workers are sometimes called “sick”, “unsuitable” and should not be allowed to do further work with children. “Just get healthy first ….” becomes a slogan.

Even among adult youth leader you can experience fear and insecurity. Everything that has to do with mental health problems leave alone if the youth worker receives psychological treatment or just consultation; he is labelled as “sick” by his co-workers. I think this is a pity. It is even more a shame when this happens in a Christian organization or the church. They literally leave their employees out cold and use every known excuse for doing so.

I think the project mentioned above is quite helpful in such situations to sensitize and educate. Once I heard somewhere: Everyone has a quirk – one here, the other there. The only difference, one shows, the other not, one knows, the other does not, one who wants to know and wants to change, therefore, seeking help for his condition.

Therefore: "Crazy? - So what! "

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