There are many things I feel are incredibly important; these are a few of them. If you’re involved in any of these areas, I’m always happy to get involved, give advice, or just have a friendly discussion. These subject areas already get a reasonable amount of visibility. Here they get an identity slant.
We’ve already put in a lot of work to ensure equality of opportunity for children coming up through schools, although a lot of work remains to be done. Yet I feel we are still missing an important aspect of what’s needed. If the discourses – the ways of thinking about self, others, and the opportunities – are not available to the children, they may not be in a position to be able to take advantage of them, or see themselves able to do so. We need to work on providing support for all children to understand their own capabilities, as well as providing support for them to have the skills and funding to be able to take advantage of the opportunity. We also need to move away from discourses that have positioned academic ability as more valid and desirable than technical ability. Both should be seen as equally valid.
Mental Health Support
Given that 6 in 10 people will experience a mental health issue at some time in their life, it’s ludicrous that there is still any type of stigma around mental health – and yet, this stereotype still persists, although we are slowly becoming more open. I feel that this is partially still due to a lack of understanding, which requires education and more open conversations. We also frequently fail to talk about the positives that are part of many mental health conditions – for instance, the elevated goal focus and concentration that can be a part of hypomania, or the attention to detail and retentive memory often seen with Asperger’s syndrome. There is also a tendency to label people by conditions, rather than allowing that, like all other parts that make up a complex human being, these things are just an aspect of the person. The rigid diagnostic criteria of the DSM often does not allow this to be taken into account.
Long Term Unemployment
Much media wrath is directed at the long-term unemployed who, lacking a mental or physical disability that prevents them from working, otherwise appear not to be actively seeking employment. Admittedly, nobody should feel that this is an ideal state; as much for the well-being of the person involved as for the greater good of the economy. However, like all situations that have been allowed to develop over time, this will not be altered overnight; and it certainly will not be altered by a few scathing headlines and outraged comments in the readers’ section. Identities develop in environments; and, as has already been discussed, they can only develop in line with the discourses available to them. Financial support, combined with training, education, and provision of more helpful discourses that allow imagining of a more positive future, aligned with the appropriate opportunities, would seem to be a more helpful way forward.
Opinion generally divides on whether the primary function of the prison system should be punishment or rehabilitation. It goes without saying that those who are a danger to others must be incarcerated; also that actions need to have consequences, else where is the deterrent? However, the high rate of re-offending should be a concern. Studies have shown two factors that consistently impact re-offending rates: instability of external circumstances (lack of security around employment and accommodation, substance abuse) and behaviours (prior offending, behaviour issues during the sentence). For those sincerely wishing to make a new start on release, I believe it is critical to help support a perception of identity that can withstanding both any discrimination met in the community and resist any impulses to return to former behaviours, combined with providing the required practical support to ensure stability after release.
Though retaining the ability to be amended during the adult years, childhood provides the formative years for identity. Children who have been removed from the home environment, often after having undergone significant trauma or neglect, start out at a significant disadvantage. Deprived of much of both the material and emotional support that many (though not all) children who have remained at home will benefit from, they may face challenges in forming relationships and building a stable life and identity. I would like to see significant levels of support provided to assist these children in building on their strengths, developing their abilities, and dealing with any challenges they face going forward; not only while they are in the system, but in the first years after they leave it.