I have been thinking recently about work related stress and whether this could be applied, in principle, to both the school and working environments. There is considerable impact on our economy at the moment in terms of the amount of sickness absence there is in our society, and as we are all too aware this is statistically weighted as being due to mental health conditions. In my experience of managing cases within the workplace, the themes that impact are relationships, workload and the competency/confidence to undertake the work. The effect of these are of course reliant on the individual resilience and perspective of the person, which should be taken as a given.
Having observed the stress for some students, it may be possible to correlate the term of “work related stress” to both environments. The polarity with this however is in the management and advice provided by the relevant advisors, guided by misled policy being administered in a blanket response to all children and young people. In the workplace there should be a solution focused approach to return to work balanced with an approach of giving a period of reflection that often supports a review of practice and work/life balance that supports putting relationships into perspective and appreciating the key issues that require support, and plan for them collaboratively. How work related stress can be observed is often irritability or insular behaviours, a strong sense of avoiding attending work or certain work activities, as well as a general sense of low self esteem or not coping. In our school environment, where equivalent symptoms may be experienced the consequences are being labelled as "school refuser", potentially face exclusion or slip through the net in regards to behaviours and struggle with relationship issues with peers and teaching staff alike, potentially compounding a negative sense of self worth and ability. Of course in both environments this is experienced and perceived as some or all of these parts. This does give rise to the question of, if this is the experience in school , then what are the knock-on effects for the perception of facing adversity later on in work?
Considering an asset-based approach that coaches individuals in the school and workplace, there may be an opportunity for building resilience and improving mental health going forward. Instead of fighting these issues it is about facing them, head on with a public health approach that is applied across schools/organisations. There is of course variability and this could be altered through a collaborative approach being applied by creating an integrated system overview of school, college/university, transitioning into the workplace, and beyond.
Whilst we are considering the implementation of the NHS 10 year plan, it is essential to view the system as a whole and not a string of silos co-existing to manage people in part, instead of supporting the whole - a public health approach is the way forward.