What is Flip The Script Friday?
Flip The Script Friday is a weekly event where we invite organisations/adults onto our website/social media to answer the questions that young people have for them.
Why is it a thing?
This is an opportunity for young people’s voices to be heard and to have their questions answered. But equally, it’s a chance to destigmatise the discussion of mental health, highlight the great work that organisations are doing and to make reaching out for support from them less intimidating.
We collaborated with Jen Daffin, she works in Child Psychology in Mental Health for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, in a team called Gwent Community Psychology, and she is here to answer all of your questions!
“I grew up in Newport and I went to school at St Joseph’s RC High School. I live in Cardiff but I work in Newport at the moment. I love outdoor sports and I play Roller Derby in my spare time. If you don’t know what that is it’s a bit like rugby on skates with a human ball! Its loads of fun! I’m not a very good cook but I like to give it a go!”
A note from Jen:
“To really 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 in their family? It means asking what has happened to you. Not what is wrong with you. Many of the 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. They are in survival mode, as are their families. We 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.”
We had so many questions sent in by young people to our Instagram @platfform4yp and here are some of the highlights!
What do you think of the idea Flip the script?
I think it’s brilliant. Sometimes us professionals can hide away in our ivory towers and it can be really confusing to know what we do and where or how we do it. This project tries to break that down which is great and really important! We are just humans at the end of the day but if you work in mental health it’s easier to forget people don’t always see or know that because of things like – all the old spooky buildings some of still work in.
What is a 'Community Psychologist'?
So a psychologist is a different kind of doctor to a psychiatrist. We don’t do medication we look at what’s happened to people and we help them make sense of that by using our understanding of how our emotions work and how they impact our minds and bodies. A Community Psychologist is a Psychologist who works in a way that understanding people’s mental health, wellbeing and distress by looking at their circumstances rather than seeing it as a problem within the individual. We work with children, families and their communities not to look for individual solutions but to look at how we can create the right environments for people – free from stress, distress, oppression, trauma and abuse. We do this both to prevent people from trauma and distress but also people need to right conditions to begin to heal from their distress too.
What is your favourite genre of music?
I used to say I liked indie and rock music the most but to be honest I like to listen to lots of different kinds of music now depending on my mood or what I’m doing.
What do you think needs to change for people to receive better mental health support?
There have been many changes over the years and some of them we are still waiting to see the benefit from. We’re trying to work in a way that recognises mental health is about our circumstances. It’s about being able to go to school and not being bullied but getting an education or your own job, living in a safe home with parents who aren’t stressed out about keeping their jobs or debt and having food on the table as much as it’s about having good relationships and feeling like you belong to your community and are valued.
What then needs to change is the old story of mental health because it’s no longer fit for purpose. We need to see not just mental health services but all services starting to ask what has happened or is happening to someone and not what’s wrong with them. In order to do this, we need to see services working together and not off on their own. We call this approach a whole systems approach. This approach means services working together but communities and people too. So we believe this needs to be a community embedded approach – which means we all need to work together in the places where people live, and where children go to school.
It’s not just about more 1:1 therapy, counselling or access to MH services. We cannot continue to look at mental health in isolation. Children live in circumstances that they are powerless to change – they can’t think their way out of their problems and they are dependent on the adults around them to help.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and do the job you do?
When I was one year old how l live my life now was still officially listed as ‘mentally disordered’ – I identify as LGBTQ+ and I am married to a woman. I’m in my early 30’s now – I know that can sound old but actually it’s not that long ago.
I’m motivated by a passion for equality and justice. For me, mental health is a human rights issue. Everyone deserves the chance to reach their potential and live a life they love. There is a lot of work to be done to achieve this but I continue to be motivated by the brilliant people around me fighting and working for the same thing every day.
What is one piece of advice you were given that you will never forget?
That would probably be the poem if by Kippling…If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….if you can trust yourself when all ‘men’ doubt you but make allowances for their doubting too….A very important person to me introduced me to this poem and it really helps me keep perspective on life!
What was your favourite subject at school? Why?
I really loved PE – I love sport and I enjoy doing anything sporty outdoors. I used to do swimming when I was younger and more recently took up ramp skating and play Roller Derby. I was lucky enough to have the chance to play for Wales in the last World Cup. If you don’t know what Roller Derby is I recommend definitely googling it!
What do you think of the ‘drop the diagnosis’ movement, is there a middle ground?
This is a complex problem!! Definitely not answerable in a tweet! It’s a process and a journey but there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that mental health is a circumstances issue but services are organised around diagnosis. It’s also complex because diagnosis can also be about identity. Sometimes this can bring positive or helpful things and sometimes it can be really destructive and really unhelpful. It’s because it can mean different things to different people in their own unique circumstances that these ideas bring up such strong emotions. It can be more helpful sometimes to think about what the movement is trying to achieve – which for me is that we cannot look at mental health as an individual issue or in isolation. Drop the disorder for me speaks to the ideas that there isn’t something wrong with you. We are all different and have different experiences. These need to be valued. But when someone is presenting with distress or mental health issues it’s really important we ask – what has happened or what is happening for this person and in their life and ensuring they get the right support from the right people at the right time. The discussion becomes more complicated when we look at neuro-diversity and trauma-related epi-genetics and when these interface with concerns about someone’s mental health.
How do you look after yourself and your mental health/wellbeing when working?
It’s really important to take time to do this. In work, we try to make time to hang out with each other even though the day is busy and there are lots of demands to get work done. This is really hard at the moment because we are all working in different ways and some of us are at home. It’s really important that workplaces are what we call trauma and distress informed, especially in mental health. The people I work with are really supportive and we try and check in on each other – mostly it’s just to have a moan and a groan but it’s really important to connect with others! Outside of work I try to make sure my work doesn’t take over my personal life and that I plan in time to do the things I love as well. This can be hard sometimes when you’ve had a busy and stressful day and you just want to sleep on the sofa!
How do you look after yourself and your mental health/wellbeing when at home?
As a mental health professional, it can be really hard not to bring your work home with you – bring the stresses and distresses home. As a family, we like to plan fun things to do together – in lockdown this mostly means bike riding. I have a young son who has just learned to ride and so we have been making sure we can get out and do things like this together. A change of pace and scene is really important as well as making time to see family and friends. Also, I try not to binge-watch too much TV. Netflix is amazing but I try to look after myself by spending hours and hours absorbed in all the brilliant films and series they have on-demand! – it’s really hard!!!
What is your favourite colour?
I really like black! I know it’s not what you’re supposed to say!!