Stuff to Do, Ways to Feel Better
Cater for young people’s hunger for structure, stimulation and recognition and the ward will be a happier and more productive place. Great CAMHS wards provide a range of individual, group and family interventions facilitated by a multidisciplinary team. A timetable offering a rich blend of structured and unstructured activity, including mealtimes, group work, therapies, physical activity, play, rest periods, free time, visiting and education is a must on any mental health ward. How? With loads of creativity, imagination and flexibility. Heroic CAMHS staff have the gift of thinking creatively and ﬂexibly yet are able to retain appropriate boundaries. They provide well-timed interest, curiosity, empathy and compassion along with mindful responses, all of which ease the experience of mental health problems for young people.
Food labelling law states that foods with flavour from real ingredients must be called ‘flavoured’. Bear with us here… Foods made with synthetic flavour must be called ‘flavour’ e.g. strawberry flavour.
So… some aspects of ward life are flavoured by therapy and are therefore classed as formal therapy, while others have the flavour (influence, inspiration, principals) of therapy and are therefore therapeutic. Of course, there’s nothing synthetic or artificial about these therapeutic qualities!
Living and Learning Together
One of the central foundations of ward life is community; one that lives, works and plays well together, one that feels safe and constructive for everyone. Feeling involved, and, therefore, able to engage and interact with others, can welcome an important internal shift in the way young people experience and respond to themselves and others. Culture influences everyone’s emotional expression and management - young people and staff alike.
When the ward offers regular opportunity to reﬂect on behaviours and situations, young people are able to use the space as a reference point for their own experience of themselves and others. The ‘milieu’ - a person’s social environment - is a supportive space in which CAMHS staff work with young people to provide safety and structure, while assessing and supporting their relationships and behaviour. A milieu is considered therapeutic when the programme’s community provides a sense of membership, belonging, care, accountability and civility. Young people develop civility, thoughtfulness and a considerate nature in the midst of caring and respectful behaviour. It’s important that everyone’s aware of the rules of the milieu environment, and the consequences of not adhering to them. (Dogra & Leighton 2009)
The Benefits of Feel-Good Activities
- Seeking help and receiving it provides valuable advice and relief from problems.
- Mindfulness and meditation promote relaxation while alleviating anxiety, through focusing on the present and regulating breathing.
- Being with animals provides comfort and an opportunity to be responsible and caring.
- Giving challenging activities a go promotes motivation and an ‘I can’ attitude.
- Creative interests keep all areas of the brain active and offer distraction.
- Charity and voluntary work develops empathy and promotes feelings of fulfilment.
- Socialising develops bonds and connections outside the family.
- Having conversations helps to put problems in perspective and prevents emotions being bottled up.
- Music relaxes, distracts from worries and allows for self-expression.
- Space and peace calm stress chemicals and relax the mind.
- Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, boosts energy and reduces stress.
- Regular and good-quality sleep reduces stress levels and improves wellbeing.
- Team sport improves social bonding and helps to let off emotional steam.
- Family games promote bonding, improve self-control and morality and are fun.
- Being outdoors promotes feelings of wellbeing.
- Accurate goal-setting reduces negativity and disappointment.
- A job gives a sense of purpose and financial reward.
- Family mealtimes offer social bonding, positive interaction and spontaneous discussion.
- Trust-building activities on the ward help to build the therapeutic relationship between the young person and staff members.
Source: adapted from Downshire & Grew 2014
Teenagers Translated: How to Raise Happy Teens
Doing Things Together
Ward groups offer time to reﬂect with others, and an opportunity for safely trying out new behaviours and ways of interacting. It all starts with a predictable structure and reasonable rules - and making these clear so everyone knows where they stand. Oh yes, and having fun, lots of therapeutic fun! In a relaxed environment, staff can engage in activities whilst staying attentive to everyone’s whereabouts and needs.
Young people are spending more time playing and socialising online than watching television programmes, according to an annual Childwise survey tracking children's media behaviour in the UK.
Among those watching TV, the Netflix on-demand service was more popular than any conventional television channel.
There was also a surge in children's ownership of tablet computers, up by 50% compared with last year.
The average time spent online is now three hours per day, compared with 2.1 hours watching television.
Children go online to watch videos, listen to music, play games and research their homework - and older children use it for social networking, particularly among girls.
The study reveals that however young people are accessing the internet, YouTube is the dominant destination.
The video-sharing website is used every day by almost half of all five to 16-year-olds, most often through a mobile phone or tablet, to watch video clips, listen to music and use games-related material.
They particularly want to see "funny" content on YouTube, but about a third watch "how-to" videos, including how to play computer games.
YouTube is also a popular way of watching television programmes, used by 74% of young people, compared with about 40% of this age group who watch programmes through the BBC iPlayer, which is the most popular of the broadcasters' on-demand services.
Apart from YouTube, other popular online destinations are Snapchat, Instagram, Minecraft and Facebook.
The study also suggests the technologies that are disappearing. A shrinking number of young people listen to music via a CD player, with mobile phones now the leading medium.
It also warns that printed magazines are losing their appeal, with diminishing numbers of regular readers.
Source: BBC News | http://www.childwise.co.uk/
A Day in the Life of a Young Person On a Unit
To give you an idea of what it’s like to stay on a unit, here’s one young person’s account of a day on the ward. Source: withuinmind.nhs.uk
“On a week day I get up at 8.30am, get dressed, then go to the dining room where I have breakfast and sit with my friends. I then watch TV or play on the Wii until 9.30am when education starts.
In education we learn lots of different subjects. We usually start with a wordsearch or puzzle to wake us up! Then we have a break at 10.30am until 10.45am, when we usually sit and chat. We go back into education again until 12pm when we break for lunch and finish education at 1.45pm.
In the afternoon we can choose the activities we want to do. I like arts and crafts, baking and playing table tennis. On Mondays and Thursdays at 2pm we have ‘group’ for an hour, which is when we do activities with the psychologist and other members of the team.
In ‘group’ we have a chance to express ourselves without any pressure. It’s really fun and we even get chocolate biscuits! After this, we spend some more time on the ward or go out for a few hours.
At 5pm we have dinner and then I like to have one-to-one time, which is when we’re able to talk to a member of staff in private. We then have an opportunity to have a nice relaxing bath before going to bed at 10pm.
On weekends we can get up later than during the week. I usually get up at 9.30am and help cook the communal breakfast. In the afternoon we can go on trips. My favourite trips are to the cinema, the park, bowling and the seaside. Family and friends visiting is easier at weekends as we aren’t in education or groups. In the afternoons, I like to bake and draw. We also get to stay up till 10.30am at weekends.
My time on the unit has really helped me, as I was able to discuss my problems with staff. I’ve made some really good friends and now feel happier and better about myself.
Please remember, there’s no need to be scared, it’s not forever.”
Interview with a former CAMHS unit patient
JS: “What was your life like before you came onto the unit?”
YP: “Horrible, I wasn’t catching buses or going to public places.”
JS: “When someone first asked you about coming into the unit, what did you think? What were your worries?”
YP: “Scared, I didn’t know what it was going to be like.”
JS: “What sorts of things happen on and off the unit?”
YP: “School, outings, ice skating, cinema, groups.”
JS: “What changes have you made in your life since coming to the unit? What things are you doing now that you weren’t doing before?”
YP: “Getting on buses, going to public places, made new friends, achieved my goals, college.”
JS: “What would you say to someone who is worried about coming here to the unit?”
YP: “It’s really good, they help you a lot. There’s no need to be scared.”