Desperate legislative processes and a happy composter

A particularly naive legislative proposal is being seriously discussed in the Finnish society: an initiative that when school bullying occurs, the bully should be made to change school instead of the victim.

Of adolescents who are frequently involved in bullying as perpetrators, almost a half are also frequently subjected to bullying themselves. On the other hand, of those who report frequent subjection to bullying, almost a third also report frequently bullying others. It may be a bit complicated to identify “the bully”. Both those who bully and those who are bullied suffer from a variety of emotional and behavioral symptoms far more commonly than those not involved in bullying. The causal pathways are far from clear, but nevertheless a lot of more than punishment to one party is needed to promote positive development of all involved, and the whole school community.

Of course, the proposed approach – if it could work – would be easy for parents, teachers and other adults in the society. Our society is generally eagerly seeking for solutions that liberate all adults from taking responsibility. Responsibility is better given to all the younger adolescents and children, because it is too restricting for adults.

I have carried out quite a lot of research on bullying and mental health. References can be found in my list of publications, and I also add some texts for a bigger audience here and here.

During the forthcoming spring term there will be busy work – for hundreds of professionals including me – with the planned huge reform of health and social services. I really think that the reform has become a political farce. I can’t help thinking of the old fairy tale where the mouse was supposed to act as a tailor and make a suit for the cat. The mouse spoiled a good share of the cloth, and when the cat came to fit the suit, the mouse apologized and suggested that he would instead sew a vest. But he did not succeed, and again, less cloth was left. So he suggested he would sew a purse… The original point of the reform, that health and social services be integrated, seems totally secondary at the moment, it is hardly mentioned any more in the public discussion.

I am a member of the group that is planning the reform of the services for children, adolescents and their families in Pirkanmaa region, and I have the honor of being a chairperson for a subgroup focusing on child and adolescent mental health services. Just before Christmas we had a hilarious meeting with the subgroup. We brainstormed to identify threats that might obstacle the ultimate goal, which is to create the “best ever” child and adolescent mental health services (a little irony perhaps?) to Pirkanmaa. We identified 13 threats quicker than I could type notes – but the best of it was even if we seriously completed the task but also had a marvelous laugh doing it. Working effectively and having good time – what a privilege!

It has been a miserable winter so far, hardly three days in a row below zero temperatures, and hardly any days with lovely soft and white snow (instead, a lot of watery and heavy snow turning to grey piles, and a lot of work in pushing the snow from front of the door). Despite this, my composter showed signs of freezing. It was also becoming alarmingly full, given that it is a long time before one can again use mold in the garden. I decided to turn it a bit more, in hope to speed it up, and discovered that there was actually an empty cave within the composting material, in the bottom part of the composter. The surface of the future mold sank considerably as the cave gave up and filled. Next time I took biomaterial to the composter, the composter was alive and working again, producing a lot of warmth. I swear I almost heard it sing happily! A good turning solved the problem. I think there is something philosophical in this. Definitely.