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A Breakthrough for Mental Health in Schools and Beyond

christopher reeve

Prime Minister, Theresa May’s first speech of 2017 filled me with hope about the future of mental health in the UK.

Her focus on innovation and mental health first aid, especially in schools, resonated with everything I have tried to achieve professionally over the last 25 years.

I have always felt the Fusion Model holds the key to resolving our growing mental health crisis, with its straight forward approach for practitioners, practical and easy to use, mind-management tips and tools and with its NCFE accredited fast-track training for therapeutic coaches and wellbeing trainers.

Now, I can finally announce how Fusion is moving forward and going national by linking with a team with the resources and potential to get great mental health training and support right into the heart of our schools, where it is so desperately needed.

How I arrived here

Following an episode of severe post natal depression over 25 years ago, I trained as a counsellor to try and offer to others the kind of support which had not been available to me when I needed it most. It was then I realised that, not only was the mental health system in the UK seriously flawed but also, the training of mental health practitioners was not fit for purpose and often based on old methods.

My journey to discover something better found me looking at many theories and approaches before bringing together a new way of working professionally and an innovative mental health approach which connected the most effective psychotherapeutic skills with cutting edge coaching tools into a new model I named ‘Fusion.’

What is the Fusion approach to mental health?

The Fusion approach to mental health (read down for a more detailed breakdown of the model) is straight forward and practical. It just makes sense so practitioners can be trained briefly, efficiently and cost effectively. The methods have been tried and tested in the mental health charity I founded more than 7 years ago and, since then, by other agencies and practitioners. That training programme is now accredited by the National College of Further Education as the fast-track Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and distance learner skills certificate.

Fusion is a model, a system and a toolbox of mind management skills which can be learned quickly to improve emotional health and build resilience, which explains why teachers, mental health workers and helping agencies are increasingly enthusiastic about working with me.

Teachers are desperate

As a society, too often we wait for problems to occur and then engage in desperate and expensive acts of fire-fighting to try and rein them in. Schools in particular are suffering from an epidemic of mental health problems in young people, such as depression, low self esteem, anxiety and self harm. Yet, still we do not teach mind management as part of the national curriculum, so individual schools are left to do the best they can with the funding they have.

Recently, I trained a total of 110 teaching staff from several schools in the Fusion approach. The group reported a 50% increase in their understanding of mental health in just a half day INSET training. This is impressive and consistent with other workshops I have presented for teachers.

For that presentation, I used one of the the Power Points I make available to all my trainers.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for the practical and sensible Fusion approach. Afterwards teachers queued to purchase, at their own cost, my Big Book of Mind Management which outlines nine essential skills for improving emotional health and wellbeing.

I am always impressed by how much teachers want to do their very best for their children. They are also becoming increasingly aware of the acknowledged link between happy students and high achieving students.

The problem

Theresa May stated in her speech, ‘For too long mental illness has been something of a hidden injustice in our country, shrouded in completely unacceptable stigma and dangerously disregarded as a secondary issue to physical health. Yet left unaddressed, it destroys lives, separates people from each other and deepens the divisions within our society.’

Fortunately, the stigma is lifting. Even our own royal family are highlighting the need for us all to expand the conversation about mental health.

We know now, through research, that children with mental health issues are four times more likely to suffer from drug addiction, six times more likely to die before the age of 30 and 20 times more likely to go to prison. Figures show too, that young people are affected disproportionately. Half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by age 18.

It’s not always about more funding

In response to Mrs May’s speech, Malcolm Trobe of the Association of School and College Leaders stated the major problem schools face is a lack of access to local specialist NHS care and said government plans must be ‘backed up with the funding’.

Russell Hobby, of school leaders’ union NAHT, seemed to agree: ‘Rising demand, growing complexity and tight budgets are getting in the way of helping the children who need it most.’ he said.

But throwing more money at a flawed system will not make the system better. Our approach to mental health and mental health training itself must be brought up to date to include all the new information now emerging about the human brain, mind and body and the holistic interaction between them.

The solution

Fusion integrates established theory with cutting edge neuroscience and psychological coaching, to help counsellors who want to extend their skills, coaches who wish to deepen their mental health knowledge, teachers, SENDCOs and LSAs who want to better support children, NHS staff and GPs who need to reduce their anti depressant drug bill and prison staff to create a calmer environment for inmates; in fact anyone who works in any kind of helping capacity where emotional wellbeing is important.

The reason I’ve worked so hard and for so long to develop the Fusion Model is because I believe this approach, which emerged through 30,000 hours of psychotherapeutic work, has the potential to revolutionise mental health, finally bringing it out of the dark ages, giving it the long-overdue parity of esteem in the NHS, raising collective wellbeing and saving the UK government billions of pounds.

The Model explained

The Fusion model is simplicity itself with its focus on holistic methods for optimum mind-body health. It acknowledges that, as children, we develop beliefs about the world based on our background, culture and life experiences.

From this, we construct our personal philosophy or ‘model of reality’. It becomes the belief system from which we draw up an ‘internal map’ we then use to navigate the world in which we find ourselves. It becomes the lens through which we ‘see’ people and events.

In essence, the Fusion model is based on the idea that human beings have physical and emotional needs; that our emotions, instincts and behaviours have evolved to push us towards getting those needs met; and that with mindful awareness, we can make emotionally intelligent choices, to truly flourish and become our ‘best selves’.

A system

In addition to our model of reality, we develop systems.

They become the habits of behaviour we repeat every day which, once learned, become ‘automatic’, like brushing our teeth or driving to work. Once established, we do not think about them or challenge them and they become our habitual way of ‘being’.

But often these habitual patterns are not serving us well. They are negative or based on an outdated or unhelpful model of reality. It’s like running the wrong software and wondering why things are not working out well for us.

The mindfulness-based STOP System helps us make good choices and respond to life’s triggers with mindfully rather than react mindlessly. In this way, we are more likely to get our needs met, experience greater wellbeing and live our best lives.

A toolbox

Neuroscience is providing an ever-increasing understanding about our amazing human brain.

With that knowledge, come practical skills and tools we can all use to help regulate our emotions; to better manage our minds, our lives and our relationships. Fusion promotes the kind of self-help, tips, tools and techniques that anyone can easily learn.

For practitioners, it provides a range of innovative and effective coaching and psychotherapeutic interventions, to accelerate client progress and improve clinical outcomes. Post study, there is a manual which provides everything needed for five complete therapeutic coaching sessions.

A direct message to Theresa May

To Theresa May, I would say:

There is now a way of reducing the one in four people with mental disorders, by passing on to the general public this sensible and practical understanding about mental health.

There is a way of reducing the annual mental health budget of £105bn, by educating people with a range of tips, tools and techniques about how to manage their emotions. What people do not understand frightens them. In this sense, knowledge truly is power.

There is a way to improve children and young people’s mental health, by making mind mangement a part of the national curriculum in recognition that EQ is as important as IQ. It is increasingly clear that the one directly influences the other. Having a whole school Fusion ethos would make a real difference.

There is a way to provide better support in the work place, by raising the emotional intelligence of organisations so they don’t just recognise the effects of stress and its implications for lost production but actively promote holistic emotional health and work/life balance to build corporate resilience.

There is a way to create greater community care to take the pressure off GPs and A&E, by making the Fusion approach, Fusion fast-track trained practitioners and Master trainers available to all. Then people can learn how to manage the inevitable stresses and strains of modern living which, left unchecked, can result in both mental and physical illness.

A major step forward: Fusion and Mindful-Me

A recent and significant development has been the partnership between social innovators Social Sense, Stephen Blackburn Associates and Fusion, branded as Mindful-Me, which is seeing Fusion practitioners and trainers really making a mark in Lancashire, Birmingham and beyond.

I have been working in partnership with Stephen since he established his business three years ago and it is through this collaboration that I am now able to offer my training courses in Lancashire as well as Bedfordshire. We will be in the beautiful Ribble Valley again in July and August 2017 for the Fusion Diploma and Train the Trainer events. Stephen Blackburn Associates have now built a strong concentration of practitioners in Lancashire and also Greater Manchester.

However, given the national reach of the growing Mindful Me programme, we are keen to create a practitioner network right across the country.

The first example of this is Heather Barton who recently completed my Bedfordshire Train the Trainer programme. Heather is based in Birmingham and will be one of Stephen’s team of practitioners when the programme moves to Birmingham in February thanks to funding from the National Lottery.

Make a difference

If you want to get involved, to make a difference to school communities all over the UK; if you want techniques to dramatically improve mental health, if you want an effective way to link your therapeutic skills to coaching or your coaching skills to counselling, if you want to take your career to the next level and raise the emotional resilience of the wider community by working in the rewarding world of wellbeing, then contact me here and let’s start the conversation.

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Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.