Making Health The Priority

!!-8SKILLS-“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”   (World Health Organisation)

In 2016 I posted this blog which attempted to explain why “Health should become the priority for Education, Parents and Societies in the 21st Century”.

It provides some of the extensive evidence now available to answer this question.

“What skills and knowledge do we need to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to our community?”


In this blog I am focusing on some of the approaches already being used to “help people learn to improve their (mental) health and wellbeing” analysing why they are effective and why they should be used much more extensively.

Counselling, Therapy, The 12 Steps and The Skills That Matter


Aims to help people identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behaviour change and good mental health.


(eg.Cognitive Behavioural, Dialectical, Behavioural, Interpersonal, Mindfulness-based, Psychodynamic, Group, Emotion-Focused, Family) aims to help people manage their problems by changing the way they think and behave.

They are both classified as ‘interventions’, designed to develop our self-awareness (how we see ourselves) so that we change how we think and behave. In fact, there is now evidence that these processes cause important changes in our personality traits.

            These processes are effective because they are providing intensive learning opportunities that employ the 5 Learning Requirements.


If we use one of the most well-known therapies –“The 12 Step Program” we can identify why it has been so effective when completely followed. 

The 12 Steps


We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable. (We’ve learnt that we MUST change)


We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.   (We can learn to change but we will need a lot of help)


We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.   (We’ve learnt that we must use continual help and support to keep us learning and changing)


We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.          (We have analysed and assessed ourselves very thoroughly and honestly)


We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  (We’ve learnt to be open and honest to others about ourselves and the damage we’ve done)


We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. (We desperately want to learn and change our character, behaviour, and lifestyle)


We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. (We will need a lot of help us learn to have our major flaws and weaknesses removed)


We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. (We will personally ensure that we learn to make amends to all the people we have harmed)


We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (We have tried to repair the damage we have done to the others we’ve harmed)


We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. (We are continually learning to apologise, to consider others and we no longer harm them)


We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.


Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs               (We will help others like us)

             The 12 Steps emphasises that it is “indispensable in our recovery are honesty, open-mindedness and willingness” which means that:

  • At Step 1 they are already MOTIVATED to learn and change
  • They have placed themselves in an ENVIRONMENT that will encourage learning and change.
  • They are CONCENTRATING on trying to learn and change.
  • Each of the steps provides ATTAINABLE TASKS for them to attempt.
  • Support and feedback is provided so that they FEEL SUCCESS with each step.

            At Steps 4, 5, 6 and 7 the tasks are “to make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves” and “to have our defects of character and shortcomings’” removed. These tasks require some deep introspection (reflection) and action which would be too difficult if the previous steps had not been achieved.

            It is essential to have the motivation, concentration, environment and positive feedback continually present. Counselling, therapy, mentoring, discussion, reflection, encouragement etc. are applied on a regular basis which is central to its effectiveness.

            In order to fully appreciate how the therapy, counselling etc. process causes a change in thinking and behaviour we need to understand that we now have extensive evidence to show that our development in some key skills largely determine our health wellbeing and life chances.

Consequently, a key objective of the ‘interventions’ is to provide opportunities to learn and develop the skills that really matter.


It is essential to appreciate that these interventions involve tasks that the individual has never (hardly ever) attempted before, their reluctance and difficulty in attempting them requires the counsellor, therapist, coach, mentor, friend, relation etc. to ask key questions and listen carefully (and patiently) to the response.

Therefore, it should be obvious that these counsellors etc. are actually trying to help the individual with their learning, hence they can also be considered to be ‘teaching’ them, although they are not actually providing ‘information or advice’.

Group Therapy

            This is an effective therapy that typically involves a small group of people (between seven and 12) in which the therapist encourages members to discuss their experiences and progress.

Here are five benefits suggested by some therapists:

  1. It helps you realize you’re not alone.
  2. It facilitates giving and receiving support.
  3. It helps you become aware and express your own feelings and needs.
  4. It helps you relate to others (and yourself) in healthier ways.
  5. It provides a safety net.

            As with the other interventions it is effective because it applies the 5 Learning Requirements:

  • They are MOTIVATED to learn and change by positive peer pressure
  • The ENVIRONMENT encourages them to learn and change.
  • They are CONCENTRATING on trying to learn and change.
  • They are provided with ATTAINABLE TASKS to attempt,
  • The group provide support and feedback so that they FEEL SUCCESS.

            Learning in groups like this has been seen to be very effective in a wide variety of ways, and I used it as the most common learning approach in my second book “Miraculous!”

Chapter 15 – “I have never enjoyed a Science lesson so much.” from the book can be read at

 Circle Time

            Also sometimes called group time, now in widespread use in schools across the UK and the USA. It provides a time for listening, developing attention span, promoting oral communication, and learning new concepts and skills. It also has roots in social group work and in solution focused approaches.

 Philosophy for Children 

            This enquiry based learning offers a way to open up children’s learning through enquiry and the exploration of ideas. They learn that they don’t always have to be right, but they gain the confidence to ask questions and learn through discussion.

 Critical Thinking

            The ability to think critically requires the skills to analyse, evaluate and synthesize problems. Group discussion is one of the teaching methods used in this research to identify the emergence of students’ critical thinking skills.

 This link provides 10 benefits of classroom discussions

             For over 100 years schools (+ colleges and universities) have used the teacher providing direct instruction in a traditional classroom as the main method of teaching and learning. Throughout that time the priorities have been academic subjects such as English, Maths, Science, History, Geography and Languages assessed by traditional written exams.

            In the 21st century we know our life chances, health and wellbeing will be mainly determined by our development in the skills that really matter, surely it is time to shift the priorities in our society and education to focus on developing and measuring these skills rather than the priorities from the 19th century.

            We have extensive evidence that we are creating generations of vulnerable young people by failing to prepare them for the 21st century world. We have developed effective techniques of intervention when the symptoms become serious but rarely apply them to develop the skills that prevent the causes of this vulnerability.

Surely we can start to shift our priorities in society and education so that we stop creating generations of vulnerable young people.




WEBLINKS and EDUCATION Young People & The skills they really need A Wonderful Life?-Helping Vulnerable Young People CULTURE FOR EDUCATION IN THE 21st CENTURY DEVELOPMENT THAT MATTERS MOST DISADVANTAGE GAP: how (I learnt) to close it GOOD SCHOOLS-analysing what they are it actually means WHAT REALLY MATTERS (& MINDSETS) in the 21st Century the skills to develop them & their importance 7 Habits and The 8 Skills


Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK – causing more deaths in this group than car accidents, and even more than cancer. This means that the most likely thing to kill Dr Xand Van Tulleken is himself. And he wants to know why. In this sensitive film, Xand finds out what we know about why people develop suicidal thoughts, and whether there is anything that we can do about it.

Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction …

What really causes addiction — to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions.

Addiction This video is adapted from Johann Hari’s New York Times best-selling book …

The 12 Steps According To Russell Brand
Professor David Nutt – The Truth About Drugs,

Addiction in the Age of Brain Science. | Markus Heilig | TEDxNorrköping

Addiction and trust: Marc Lewis at TEDxRadboudU 2013
The Neuroscience of Addiction – with Marc Lewis – YouTube



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s