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Encouraging Healthier Minds

Improving and Creating Mental Health Education in the Monterrey and ASFM Communities

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND

The American School Foundation of Monterrey (ASFM) and the surrounding community heavily emphasizes and values the way you look. It’s always about having the right clothing, the right haircut, the right body. This has even extended to the music people listen to here, and, ultimately, the way people behave as well.

I realized and recognized this myself because I grew up differently. I’m characteristically introverted, and I was a lot quieter when I was younger. I naturally wanted to live in my own world, so I constantly disconnected myself from the real one. I was also naturally stubborn, so I pushed myself away even more to continue living in my world. On top of all this, I grew up amongst the foreigners at my school, so I never really acquired the behaviors present in many of the people living in my community today. As I got older I saw people changing and developing through an outsider’s lens, and I also saw the emotional inner struggle that it created in many people throughout the process. This incited a mechanism that socially encouraged homogenous behavior. A lot of students ended up going through anxiety, depression, and in some cases, anorexia as well. The presence of the illness is then usually buried, ignored, and brushed aside by parents or by the children themselves.


THE CHALLENGE

Defining this problem was the biggest struggle for me. It became clear and present to me when I talked to the directing head of the mental health organization Ingenium, which focuses on creating an encouraging, healing environment in mental health patients’ surroundings. I recall the director, Ana María Solbes, saying that there are many big issues, but some of the biggest lay in people fearing rejection from society because they’re different. Another is the stigma against and fear of mental illness. These two issues together make for a hostile environment for children who like branching out and going for interests that differ from those of the society. The impact of this issue came up again while discussing it with the AP Psychology teacher at ASFM and our school psychologist. It was even more heavily discussed for over an hour with an expat administrator, who has lived here for a while, and started a family here. We talked about how much she sees the issues in the local students and the parents, and how her daughter, being raised in a household of two cultures, experienced but also recognized the homogenous patterns and the social pressures.

Seeing the issues caused by the inner-workings of my community, and having talked to the head director of Ingenium, I realized the greater gravity of these issues—and wanted, in turn, to incite a change to push my community forward. I wanted to do something to promote individuality and remove social pressure from people who would naturally deviate from their expectations. This would include addressing the normality of mental illness and teaching students how to avoid it and how to help heal it.

This made my challenge finding a way to decrease the fear of society-induced psychological problems and people’s neglect of them. The, “people,” in essence, include parents and students from the ASFM community, and families and friends participating in Ingenium programs. 


THE SOLUTION

To solve these issues, I planned out and designed a solution divided into three different parts…

Part I involves three posters that can address the psychological and social issues that I want to tackle. The posters would serve the function of encouraging awareness and comfort for students struggling through challenging mental and emotional situations.

Part II involves a Google Slides Presentation and a course outline for a two-year Middle School Advisory program that teaches students about stressor sources and the different mental illnesses that can arise during those school times. This would bring about a certain awareness and knowledge that could help prevent mental illness and de-stigmatize the concept, experience, and existence of mental illnesses in daily lives.

Part III involves a workshop plan that would have the same functions as the one in Middle School but be implemented in the Ingenium workshops for their participants. These would serve a similar purpose to Part II’s plan but would simply be implemented and reworked to fit Ingenium’s audience of learners. This program would also last for a smaller amount of time than the one at ASFM because of the longer workshop hours and the participants’ decreased need to repeatedly go over what they learned.

Here are the poster designs for Part I:

This is Part II. It involves a follow-along course document linked here.

Part III

The Ingenium Team

This next part is the last of my Catalyst Conference Project, and it involves the organization that helped me find the issue in my community: Ingenium. They already run workshops that teach family and friends how to deal with many different mental disorders of an individual that they’re close to.

To carry this part out, the posters I had from Part I will be translated to Spanish and then, if all goes well, they will be put up at Ingenium’s building and grounds. Then a plan would be sent implement my Mental Health program through an eMail:

Licenciada Ana María Solbes,

I hope all has been well, and that the workshops have been running smoothly throughout the course of these first few months of the year.

I’ve been planning out an addition to the course that you’ve been outlining for next year. Since I chose to focus my community issue around the fact that people fear psychological issues and set up standards for themselves based on the community, I would like to add a program or section to that workshop that addressed these issues.

I knew that the fear of psychological issues is already addressed in your program, but the other part of my focused issue is not. If the workshops could have one day of addressing the issue of these standards then a lot of psychological stress could be relieved or prevented amongst family and friends.

Here’s the workshop idea that I had in mind:

  1. Begin the workshop by talking about the stressors and expectations each individual has for themselves. 
    • Note: This would work best after having been together for a month or two.
  2. Explain how there can be societal expectations and how there can be personal expectations.
  3. Prompt the individuals in the group to label these stressors and/or expectations as society-induced and/or personal.
  4. Have them analyze the society-induced expectations and stressors…
    • Which ones cause the most stress?
    • Which ones are needed for day to day life?
    • Which ones are just simply expected of you because other people give them to you?
    • Why do you have these expectations?
  5. Then prompt them and encourage them to remove these expectations and stressors from their lives as some can lead to mental illnesses like anxiety, and depression.
  6. Conclude with a reflective discussion on the different expectations and stressors that the individuals are going to leave behind.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The next steps involve talking to my school’s administrators, grade level teacher teams, and Ingenium for workshop and poster implementations. I will approach them with the idea so that it can be improved and then implemented into programs next year. This will involve getting teachers familiar with the idea, as well, so it will definitely involve further steps of implementation over the Summer. The posters can be printed and hung around the community as of now, but would work better alongside the new programs that could begin next year.

Feel free to suggest any ideas, submit comments below, and analyze and critique the methods…

Teachers and students viewing this, what are your comments and ideas to make this project welcome in a school community? Have you had any programs like these in your own school? What were they like? Did they work?

Parents viewing this, how would you feel if your child were learning about mental illness in middle school? Do you feel that this issue should be addressed in a different manner?


SOURCES CITED

Anxietycentre. (2017, Feb. 22). Anxiety Symptoms (including Anxiety Attacks, Disorder, and Panic Signs and Symptoms). Retrieved from http://www.anxietycentre.org/anxiety-symptoms.shtml

Canva.com

Children of Parents with a Mental Illness. [Username]. (2012, May 22). How it feels to have depression – information for kids, teens & young people. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQbvzSxNDtY

Global Online Academy Abnormal Psychology Teacher Team. (n.d.). WATCH by 3/7: What is anxiety?. Retrieved from https://globalonlineacademy.instructure.com/courses/760/pages/watch-by-3-slash-7-what-is-anxiety?module_item_id=114781

[Untitled photograph of the Ingenium team]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ingenium.org.mx/site/nosotros/quienes-somos 

NATALIA PHOTOS [Photographer username]. (2011). Fantastic Diane Freis Turquoise-Green Georgette Ruffle Floral Boho Dress. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/expressyourself-7/5321361197

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Depression. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression

NinkComPoop. [Username]. (2015, Oct. 5). ANXIETY FOR KIDS | YOU *ARE* NORMAL!. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BwC-AXKv-c

Wokandapics. [Username]. (2017). [Untitled picture of a classroom]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/p-2093743/?no_redirect

World Health Organization. (2001). Mental disorders affect one in four people. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/ 

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