There are times when we all feel the strain. As parents and carers, there are ways we can support children and young people to give them the best chance to stay mentally healthy. Parents and carers play an important role in teaching children and young people how to understand and manage their feelings as they grow up.
Research tells us that as many as three children in every primary school class has a mental health problem. This is an issue which is growing and remember, these are only the reported number of diagnosed cases, as not every child has a diagnosis and many struggle in silence for fear of being seen “differently” to their peers. At a young age, difference matters and so many struggle to conform to what they think is the norm, or the way they should be. If there is a problem within the home, or the young person is subjected to bullying, it is likely they will keep quiet and not reach out for support.
Of concern is that around 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. And this could be to do with being afraid to speak out, to express or understand their feelings and also not to appear “different” to those around them. Children’s mental health like adults should be given the same importance as their physical health.
In schools, children and young people are taught about a healthy lifestyle that includes; good nutrition, exercise, social contact etc. all vital to our physical wellbeing. It is equally as important for them to be taught also about “difference”, about speaking out, expressing their feelings and of course being kind – not just to others, but to themselves. Thankfully, this is now being recognised more widely within schools. There is however, stigma around mental health so it is useful to encourage youngsters to speak out, to be heard and to talk about their feelings.
Common issues which can impact a child or young person’s mental health:
- Having a long-term physical illness
- Having a parent who has had mental health problems, problems with alcohol or has been in trouble with the law
- Experiencing the death of someone close to them
- Having parents who separate or divorce
- Having been severely bullied, or physically or sexually abused
- Living in poverty or being homeless
- Experiencing discrimination, perhaps because of their race, sexuality or religion
- Acting as a carer for a relative, taking on adult responsibilities
- Having long-standing educational difficulties.
Things that can help children and young people’s mental wellbeing include:
- Being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
- Having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors
- Being part of a family that gets along well most of the time
- Going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils
- Taking part in local activities for young people.
Other factors are also important, including:
- Feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe
- Being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves
- Being hopeful and optimistic
- Being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed
- Accepting who they are and recognising what they are good at
- Having a sense of belonging in their family, school and community
- Feeling they have some control over their own life
There is help available to children and young people and this includes:
- Help and support from professionals
- GP advice
- Being able to talk through their thoughts and feelings in a safe and confidential setting
- Child focused organisations
- Clubs and groups
Organisations and supportive information that can help:
If you feel you may need some support, you can contact Care first. Care first is a leading provider of confidential professional counselling, information and advice services. All employees are eligible to use Care first and our services include; telephone counselling, information services and online support. Call Care first on the Freephone number provided by your organisation and you can speak to a professional in confidence.
If you would like to view the Webinar on ‘Children, Teenager and Young People’s Mental Health Awareness’ this is being delivered live on Friday 14th May at 12pm, please use the below link to register for this session –
If you are unable to join the webinar live, a recording of the session can be accessed using the same link above after the webinar has taken place.