In an edition of The Times earlier this year, social affairs correspondent Rosemary Bennett noted that the government had committed an additional £1.25 billion to address mental health issues in schools – yet at the time of her article, only £142 million had been allocated for this financial year. That, of course, was pre-Brexit and the sudden change in national leadership we saw thereafter.

Will these funds be delivered as promised? Given statistics showing that 1 in 10 children aged between 5 and 16 suffer from a diagnosable metal health disorder – that’s around three children in every classroom – we need to act fast.

So what can we do? Can we help our young people access their inner resilience and mental well-being in a quick, easy and empowering way? Can we educate, or even re-educate them to be innately healthy children, teens and young adults who are confident in navigating their own psychological pathways through life’s inevitable challenges?

I believe we can. But to do so, we need to prioritise mental health education. And this goes way beyond merely raising awareness of mental health issues. That’s the easy part.

There is a vital missing piece in our education system, which lies at the heart of understanding why our young people are seemingly so fragile and prone to anxiety disorders, addiction, depression, eating disorders and self-harm. This missing piece has become necessary – if not essential – in today’s times. An incessant stream of social media and on-demand information, and subsequent lack of privacy and quiet, invariably leads to feelings of confusion and inadequacy. Young people do not know where to find their own inner sense of security, confidence and common sense.

So where do we start? With an education of the human operating system…

Natural instincts

As human beings we have inbuilt ‘factory settings’ that are designed to guide us through life. This is evident from the youngest age – small children are incredible examples of the human capacity for resiliency and mental health. They are passionately motivated and have an innate common sense that guides them to learn the skills they need to survive and thrive.

This inherent, but often overlooked capacity for high mental and emotional functioning is built into our psychological DNA. We are powered by a creative intelligence that guides the mind via thought to navigate the human experience with perspective and sound judgement.

As we mature, our highly sophisticated, analytical minds often override and obscure this innate ability – yet it is always there underneath the noise, just as the sun is always behind the clouds in poor weather. We are constantly making sense of our world through our thinking minds; we are thinking creatures from the cradle to the grave. And yet our children are not educated about this extraordinary capacity of thought – what it is and where it comes from.

We use thought to socialise, learn, make decisions and perceive our world. Thought lies at the core of our psychological functioning; our potential is actualised or limited through our understanding and use of thought.

Dr. George Pransky, one of the pioneers of the Three Principles of Innate Health approach, explains how moment-to-moment, we are experiencing our own subjective version of reality. This is created by energy that shows up in the form of thoughts, images, perceptions, feelings, opinions and sensations.

The implications of this are enormous. It may feel as if we are merely reacting to a reality that is ‘out there’, but when we take a step back, we begin to see that this supposed reality is in perfect alignment with the thoughts we are thinking at any given moment. If we are experiencing a dissatisfying world, we will be thinking dissatisfying thoughts.

Once we see the underlying nature of thought, everything changes. That is because thought is a transient, formless energy that has no power but the power we give it. If a person thinks something is true, it will be true for them.

The most common misunderstandings occur when we attribute how we feel to factors beyond our control. This can make us feel victimised by others, as well as our own feeling states. When we feel bad, sad, frustrated, stressed or anxious, we often attribute such feelings to external factors. We blame the weather, our relationships, exams, the Tube, the city we live in, our teachers and countless other factors for how we feel.

Empowering change

Knowing all of this, surely it is incumbent on us to teach our children about the workings of the mind and the power of thought as part of their learning curriculum?

It is crucial that we educate young people about how thought works, and its connection to feelings and people’s state of mind. Children and teenagers need to be shown that we live in the feelings of our thinking, not in the feelings of our circumstances or those of other people.

As they learn how thought creates feelings and how feelings compel our reactions, they will see their role in creating what they live in. Another way of putting it is that the more we think, the stronger we feel – and the worse we behave. There is no more important lesson for a young person – or any person, for that matter – to learn.

The good news is that thought is nothing more than energy. It is not an unchangeable fact, nor some kind of immutable object like cement. This is very hopeful. It allows us to see that our thoughts are naturally changing and constantly evolving. They are transient. They come and go, like clouds. They may look menacing, but they have no substance – and though we may not always see it, the sun is always present behind them.

Understanding how thought works, and realising that our intelligent minds are constantly replenishing us with new thoughts, suggests an enormous range of possibilities. It permits us to see how we have the remarkable ability to gain insight, create, imagine, understand, discover, heal and recover.

This is how we change, evolve and get through difficult times. This understanding reassures us that a change of thought will bring a change of feeling, even if the circumstance stays the same. This happens so much quicker and easier when we understand where our feelings are coming from.

Just as we have an intelligent physiological system, so too are we born with a healthy and intelligent psychological system. If our kids are overriding this innate capacity to thrive in life and deal with their social, academic and family lives, it is our job to teach them how to re-engage with the built-in resilience and well-being with which they began life.

This extraordinary gift is intrinsic and innate to all human beings, no matter what. And teaching our young people that is the greatest lesson we can deliver.

Observe and intervene

Some of key signs that young people may be overriding their innate psychological protection systems…

• They are very attached to what they think, rather than being able to easily let go of their opinions

• The feeling and energy in the classroom is intense and erratic, rather than easygoing and stable

• Their behaviour is compulsive and reactive, rather than considered and responsive

• Their recovery rate is slow, rather than allowing them to bounce back to themselves quickly after becoming upset

• They blame others for their upset or stress, rather than seeing, as Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said, that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

• They are withdrawn, demotivated and act as if they are disinterested, rather than interactive, internally motivated and curious

Terry Rubenstein is the co-founder of the London-based Innate Health Centre – a non-profit organisation that previously created the ‘iheart: Innate Health Education and Resiliency’ training project for schools. She is also the author of Exquisite Mind – how three principles changed my life…and are sweeping the world.

For more information, visit innatehealth.co or follow @InnateHealth3P