I write this in advance of a privileged occasion. The occasion is a meetup titled Neuroscience & Education. I have been invited to present a social initiative I am developing called the Winning Minds Movement – which provides educational solutions for children and young peoples mental wellbeing

The invite came from a role model of mine – David Pollard – co-founder of Learning Tech Labs – the group I will present to. It’s a group of people who have provided great inspiration in my quest to make social impact – and I am honoured for the opportunity to present.

Not to say anything about the honour of sharing the stage with three eminent people from the area of neuroscience and education*.

So I felt obliged to write this, and provide some background to my work and myself.

 I am an educator in adult education – and have been for the past 25 years

One of my areas of expertise is to take complicated information and deliver it to grassroots people in a user friendly format. This approach didn’t come easy, and I looked to neuroscience for help.

When I started out teaching – most teachers seemed to focus on teaching – which seemed like a logical approach – but not for me.

I looked to neuroscience and educational psychology to understand how the mind learns. The teaching was secondary to me. Understanding how adults learned was more important. I also found it less stressful, as I focused on learners, and not how I would teach.

In essence – I studied the wiring of the brain – understood how it processed information – and devised teaching methodologies in sync with the wiring.

But more importantly, understanding how adults learned, enabled me to deliver simplified information that built confidence and self belief.

I have practiced these methodologies in my teaching role at The Waverley Academy; now I want to apply them to the teaching of mental wellbeing. And this is why.

My motivation dates back many years, when I faced my own challenges with mental health. Lucky enough gifted people were on hand. The solution towards mental wellbeing was easier than I thought, and was introduced to me by an art teacher in a local community centre. What she did was simple – but yet powerful.

She combined my passion for sport with art, and changed my thinking. It’s a story I’ll tell another time – but what she did was very clever and changed my wiring from negative to positive. In fact, she transformed my life, and gave me thinking skills I never could have imagined.

I never looked back – but it crossed my mind sometimes as to what might have been if I’d of had those skills earlier in life. And that’s why I started the Winning Minds Movement. I want to introduce these skills to others and help them build mental wellbeing and resilience. I want to help young people avoid the mistakes I made, and provide them with a healthier way of thinking.

Which brings me to my current position within mental health: why wait for the problem to occur? Why not lay healthy wiring from the outset.

That said, the amount of negativity in the media and social media towards the mind and mental health, can cloud our thinking.

But I want to change that. I want to change the narrative that the mind is complicated or that the mind is a problem, I want to tell a different story of how the mind can be simplified, and (in most cases) can be your friend. It can be the most powerful tool on the planet – and can dramatically improve your quality of life.

I want to empower people with the skills and knowledge to strengthen their mind – and nurture healthy ones in their children.

I want to start a movement that focuses on wellness over illness.

And I want to provide support for the primary educators of our children: the parents.

Because the evidence is overwhelming: using a positive and preventive approach will tip the balance in favour of positive outcomes, and reduce the possibilities of mental distress and the associated collateral damage.

Can it be done? Of course it can. All we have to do is look to neuroscience again, which informs that the brain can be trained, changed, developed and cultivated.

And therein lies the key to a preventive approach in mental health.

I look forward to sharing more about my story and plans for the Winning Minds Movement at next Wednesday’s meetup @intrecom.

Derek O Kelly

Director The Waverley Academy

Founder Winning Minds Movement

* Bethany Kok, PhD – *Nigel Robb, PhD – *Kevin Koidl, PhD: