Teaching AND practicing mental wellness
Learning the Language
As parents and teachers, we spend so much time helping children learn to speak—to say first words, then strengthen their grammar and vocabulary. We do this because we want them to be able to go out into the world with the ability to express their thoughts about books, history, politics, math, and science. Yet, we don’t emphasize teaching children how to talk about their emotions and we wonder why so many young adults are stressed, angry, sad, disconnected, and difficult to reach.
Language is how we explain things to each other, and to ourselves. Children are taught language and given guides for how to better express their feelings about everything from Harry Potter to outer space, but when do we teach kids how to effectively respond to the question, “How are you feeling?” When do we help them practice asking that question of others, and of themselves?
Seeding Cultural Change
Young people are not receiving adequate or effective education about social-emotional and mental wellness. This is not because parents and teachers are not passionate about the issue. It is because mental health resources in schools are scarce or expensive, programs are not as effective as they need to be even when they are present, and many parents and teachers feel ill-equipped to discuss the topic with their children and students.
The goal of YouHue Edu is to remedy this. YouHue Edu improves the mental wellness of students by providing an education tool that seeds a culture of communication, empathy, and understanding in young people in the school environment. Our goal is to aid emotional expression, combat bullying, strengthen social-emotional intelligence, and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health support in school.
YouHue guides students through a social-emotional exercise with other students, using only a small amount of class time. In the exercise, the student is helped to learn how to communicate her emotions and practice connectedness with others. YouHue presents to the student a comprehensive and varied, yet restricted, set of emotional response options. This allows the student to examine the given set of emotions and identify feelings they may not understand without such guidance. The design of the exercise thereby scaffolds and supports young people’s understanding of ways in which they can express themselves appropriately. This can then be translated into real life, where a set of emotional response options is not available.
Technology for Positive Behavioral Change
Technology is a powerful way to teach children about understanding and sharing their feelings because computers, smartphones, and other devices are where students are already most comfortable expressing themselves. However, social technologies do not currently teach children how to express themselves with others in a healthy way. We at YouHue believe we can use youth engagement with social technology to responsibly create positive behavioral change. This positive behavioral change takes the form of more open and clear expression of emotions, deeper empathy between students, greater coping ability, and stronger understanding of self.
YouHue Edu takes a preventative approach to mental health issues, focusing on strengthening young people’s ability to understand, articulate, and express their emotional needs, so that they can be addressed. As well, YouHue Edu focuses on improving resilience by strengthening a child’s feeling of real connectedness to the people around them.
Opening the Conversation through Positive Use of Technology
Seeding a new culture starts by giving children a common language for communication, a way to translate their feelings into words that can be comfortably shared with others. We need to show them how to open up and participate in a conversation about their mental wellness. Our failure to do this is why later efforts to mitigate mental health issues are not as effective as we need them to be. If a student is not able to talk about her emotions, this puts her at risk of developing mental health issues. If a student is not able to talk about her emotions, she is put at risk of not being able to engage with treatment, inhibiting recovery if she does develop a mental health issue. We’re essentially speaking a foreign language and practicing foreign customs. It is so much easier for children to learn a new language or habit, than it is for adults or young adults. Let’s not forget that when it comes to teaching the language of mental health.
YouHue uses technology to open up and guide conversation about simple self-reflection and expression, showing children how to do this in a social context. Right now, parents and the school system are not talking with children about mental wellness before we start talking with them about mental illness. In this, we’re missing the most critical time at which we can take steps to fortify children against such issues. The first step to treating mental illness is teaching children how to cope, but the first step in preventing mental illness is teaching children how to understand and express their emotional needs. Among many other reasons, this is so they know when to apply coping techniques.
Practice Makes Permanent & Permanently De-stigmatized
Without practicing self-reflection and expression, children can’t do them well. Without being taught how to practice, they can’t practice. How is an angry child supposed to know how to understand her rage, and what to do with it? YouHue shows children that feelings can be regularly discussed and that is normal. The software gives children a simple language they can use to express themselves, and then gives them frequent and comfortable opportunities to practice that language.
Stigma is perpetuated because of a lack of integration of emotional expression into regular conversation at home and at school. Children learn that these are not the appropriate environments for emotional expression, often not because parents or teachers intentionally direct them to suppress. Rather, it is conveyed to children that this is not a focus. While they are given regular opportunities to practice math, there are no such regular opportunities to reflect on, and express, their emotional state. YouHue creates a culture change around mental wellness by changing this, leading to removal of stigma.
Technology for Cultural Change
Setting aside the question of whose responsibility it is to teach children about emotional intelligence, let’s recognize that they aren’t currently being taught, need to be, and that it comes down to a cultural change. YouHue endeavors to catalyze that culture change and improve the mental health of students by opening up, and guiding, continuous conversation about emotion wellness.
YouHue integrates mental health into the education environment in a way that students can understand. We recognize our responsibility to not be another technological distraction. Our responsibility is to expand student potential. YouHue Edu presents children with a fun and easy way to practice a simple mental wellness exercise. It’s fun that turns into serious gains for self-understanding, empathy, mental wellness, and school and life outcomes.
YouHue Edu is a simple, fun, powerful mental wellness education software to accomplish real positive outcomes for children’s health and potential.
YouHue Edu, Educational Software for Youth Mental Wellness