As a parent, this week’s ‘Panorama: ‘Kids in Crisis’ made me worry about the future for our children when they reach their teenage years. With pressures from school, social media, family strains and the general fast pace of life, the programme highlighted that more and more teenagers need access to extremely overstretched mental health services. There was a big focus on prevention and early intervention leading to better outcomes than later, emergency measures. So what can parents and adults working with young people do to help try and prevent young people suffering from mental health issues?
One thing is to allow children and young people access to a range of group activities that allow them to focus on the activity in hand and working productively with people in the group, and not on external pressures and what other people may be thinking about them. Different activities will suit different young people and include sport, drama, music and organised groups such as the Scouting movement and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme.
The Radio 4 series (aired in July), ‘Storm and Stress: New ways of looking at adolescent mental health’ featured Jack Drum Arts based in County Durham.
To quote the presenter “Drumming isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, but for some young people, an organisation based on drumming has been a life-saver”.
Here at Unbeatable Energy we have a long track record of providing drumming workshops to children and young people through schools, youth groups and the scout and guiding movement. Young people are also welcome at our Sheffield evening classes. We find that group drumming brings people together and often levels the playing field so that the quieter individuals really shine.
Residencies at schools can provide an excellent opportunity for longer-term engagement and progression. One of our ex-students, Amy Cawthorn, participated in such a residency in Rotherham back in 2012. She is now the leader of the community group ‘Rotherham African Drummers’. Here is Amy’s account of what African drumming meant for her as a teenager and what it continues to mean today:
“As a teenager African drumming gave me a sense of focus. It helped me to stay calm and it was (and still is) a brilliant way to relieve my stress - especially during exam time. Sometimes, as a teenager (and even now as an adult) I find drumming relaxing, an outlet, a way to express my emotional state when I'm on my own, and - as a group - it's a good way to share something with people. A shared experience can help bring people together and I think this is what I've taken from my teenage years.
“African Drumming is a great way for young people to meet others and build their confidence and self-esteem through participating in a group activity. Measuring goals both on musical and personal levels can really help people of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs to create meaningful relationships, build support networks and to have an outlet for all kinds of emotional relief.
“I can have the worst day in the world but get me on an African djembe drum and I feel miles better!”