Andrea Danese is Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. He is also Honorary Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the National and Specialist CAMHS Clinic for Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression at the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Over the last 12 months we’ve often heard that it is children and young people who have sacrificed most.
Despite being least at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19, they have been isolated from friends, denied education and training, and even lost out on many ‘coming of age’ events such as landmark birthday celebrations.
In this context, emotions such as anxiety, sadness and even anger are understandable and reasonable responses.
That is why we and our colleagues are working with, young people and production and social media companies to produce three short films educating 14-24 year olds about those emotions and how to manage them. Of course, we all experience such emotions even in ‘normal’ times so we hope our films will be watched by people of any age and well after we’ve left these bleak days behind us.
We’re launching the first film – around anxiety – today. Films on sadness and anger will follow in the next three months. We hope they will reduce stigma around mental health problems and provide some helpful coping tips.
To achieve that, we’re making sure that the KeepCool series is a two-way conversation. KeepCool is a platform for young people to share their experiences and to organise them around established clinical principles. We are learning what emotions feel like for young people, when they experience them, and how they deal with them.
With funding from UK Research and Innovation, we’re working with focus groups of young people brought together and supported by the McPin Foundation. We’re listening to their experiences of negative emotions and co-producing advice on managing them. There’s a lot of wisdom in lived experience that we should learn from.
But the KeepCool brand is more than just the three films. Through social media we want to broaden the conversation out as young people respond to the films.
KeepCool does not seek to erase emotions. It is about learning to experience them fully without being overwhelmed by them. We cannot just click our fingers and magically change how we feel. However, we can cope with anxiety, sadness, and anger by working on the way we think and behave.
In that way the sacrifices of the last year can have some lasting meaning that equip young people with the coping skills to meet the challenges of the future.
The first film and more information are available now