This week, we were privileged to have Dick Moore visit Tanglin. Dick was formerly an English teacher, rugby coach and headmaster, before immersing himself in adolescent emotional wellbeing after his son, Barney's suicide in 2011. He visits schools, universities and organisations to help raise awareness of mental health issues.
Appreciating the pressures on children to achieve, whether it be their own expectations, those of teachers and parents, or the pressures of social media, Dick shared his advice on how we can all help young people to deal with their emotions and consequently, their behaviour.
In sessions for staff, parents and students, Dick described a continuum of emotional wellbeing that we are all on. Many students can cope with the pressures they face, that little bit of anxiety and stress can be motivational. However, for others, there are times when these go from being positive to destructive. Dick's message is that schools and parents need to be able to identify these children and to "listen non-judgmentally to them. It is about empathy – if children feel understood, then that is good for their self-esteem, which in turn maximizes their self-confidence."
But, how do we tell when someone's low mood has become depression? Dick suggested warning signs can include feeling troubled, exhausted, numb, anxious, tearful, empty, isolated, worried, worthless, confused, angry, joyless, broken, trapped and endless. We need to decipher how long they have felt like this, what level of distress they're in, and how disabling these emotions have become to everyday life. "Emotions never last forever, everyone has low times – join the club! However, when someone can't live the life they want to live, they need to seek help."
Dick also spoke to Senior students about the unsustainability of the 'always on' mentality, "There needs to be time for self-balance. Being happy is much more than just getting top grades. You should work hard AND play hard, eat well and sleep well, exercise, get some fresh air, accept your emotions, laugh and smile, and most of all talk, talk, talk."
Dick set out his belief that life is in three parts: sometimes fun, sometimes normal and sometimes stormy. He emphasised the importance of resilience when encountering the storms – that it's crucial to speak up and that it's not weak to ask for help. His hope in speaking to students across the world is that one day, they can look up whilst engulfed by a dark hurricane and know that any storm and emotion is temporary, and that in time the storm will pass. If they can lean on friends, family and staff, they know they will be okay. As he concluded: "Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain."
Thank you to the TTS Foundation for supporting Dick Moore's inspirational visit.