Children's Mental Health Week (6th - 12th February) – a special time dedicated to taking care of the mental health and wellbeing of our children. Mental health is an important part of being healthy, happy and successful, yet too often it is overlooked.
Children's Mental Health Week is an opportunity to bring attention to the issue and provide children and young people with the tools and support they need to thrive so that they can reach their full potential. In this article, we will discuss the importance of children's mental health, what families can do to support their children's mental wellbeing, and how to properly address this important issue.
As this week marks Children’s Mental Health Week, it is important to take a moment to recognize how important mental health really is. Mental health affects every aspect of our lives, and while we may think of it as something only adults need to pay attention to, children’s mental health is just as important. Children’s mental health has a direct effect on their overall wellbeing, including their physical, emotional and behavioural health. Mental health is the cornerstone of a child’s development and it is essential to ensure that children are growing and learning to the best of their abilities. It is important for parents to watch for signs of mental health issues in their children, especially if there is a family history of any mental health issues. Mental health issues in children can present themselves in many different ways, so it is important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Some of the signs that parents should watch for include changes in their child’s behaviour, development, and regular habits. Parents can also help their children maintain good mental health by ensuring they are getting enough sleep, have nutritious meals, and are receiving the physical activity they need. It is also important to provide children with a safe and secure environment so they can express their emotions and learn how to manage their behaviour. Creating an open space to talk about mental health is also essential in helping children understand their emotions and how to keep themselves mentally healthy. Talking to children about mental health can go a long way to reducing the stigma around the subject, and providing them with the tools they need to keep themselves mentally-healthy.
- 1 in 8 (12.8%) 5-19 year olds had a diagnosis of at least one mental health disorder in 2017.
- 1 in 10 (10.7%) 5-19 year olds had emotional symptoms needing treatment or support in 2017-18.
- The prevalence of anxiety among children and young people is estimated to be between 5-20%
- Estimates show that 1 in 12 (8.3%) aged 4-17 have conduct issues, 1 in 20 (5.0%) have oppositional defiance, and 1 in 30 (3.3%) have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Girls aged 5-15 are almost three times more likely to have a diagnosed mental disorder than boys.
- Around 25,000 children and young people, aged up to 17, were referred to a mental health service at least once in 2017.
- 7 out of 10 young people referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) do not receive treatment within 18 weeks of referral, approximately 7,000 wait more than 18 weeks.
Advice for children to support their friends and their own mental health
1. Talk to someone or seek professional help when feeling overwhelmed or struggling with mental health issues.
2. Connect with peers and family who you can trust and talk to about feelings, worries and problems.
3. Develop healthy coping strategies such as exercise, listening to music, drawing, or playing sports.
4. Get adequate sleep, eat healthy foods, and participate in activities that make you feel good.
5. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery or mindfulness.
6. Reach out to friends and ask for help or support if needed.
7. Utilize available support systems such as school social workers, mental health programs and hotlines.
8. Let your friends know it is OK to talk about their problems and show that you are available to listen.
9. Encourage them to take time off and take breaks when needed.
10. Suggest activities, such as exploring nature together, that may help the friend relax and refocus on the present.
Advice for Parents & Carers
1. Take time to build a strong relationship with your child – listen to their worries and thoughts, be there for them when they need to talk, encourage them to open up and trust you.
2. Create a safe and supportive environment for your child – set boundaries and provide support when making decisions.
3. Reach out for help when you need it – seek advice from qualified professionals if you’re worried about your child’s mental health or wellbeing.
4. Encourage children to be active and lead a healthy lifestyle – engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet can help to reduce stress and make children feel better.
5. Monitor their use of technology – children may be exposed to things which can have a negative effect on their mental health both online and through social media.
Signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health include: changes in their behaviour, such as withdrawal or changes in mood; changes in eating or sleeping patterns; difficulty with relationships; struggle to focus or concentrate; and frequent or intense worries or fears.
Advice for teachers & school staff
1. Build a trusting and supportive classroom environment: Creating a safe and secure classroom environment is essential for students to feel comfortable and respected. Invest time in getting to know your students, creating relationships and connecting with them, so they can come to you when they need help.
2. Look out for warning signs: Keeping an eye out for signs of poor mental health in your students can help you intervene and provide appropriate support before the situation deteriorates. Warning signs can include changes in behavior (e.g. withdrawal, aggression, lack of engagement), changes in performance, or reports or complaints from fellow students.
3. Know the resources available: Make sure that you are familiar with the resources available to support students with mental health issues, including school counselors and support services.
This Children’s Mental Health Week, take the time to recognize how important mental health really is. Mental health can help shape all aspects of our children’s lives and being mindful of their emotional health can have a direct and positive effect on their future.
Organisations for support & advice
1. YoungMinds: www.youngminds.org.uk - YoungMinds is a UK based charity that offers emotional support, advice, and information for young people (aged 25 or younger) with mental health issues. They have a helpline, online advice and a Parent’s Helpline to support parents in navigating their child’s mental health issues.
2. Action for Children: www.actionforchildren.org.uk - Action for Children is a UK charity that provides emotional, practical, and mental health support to children, young people, and their families. They offer advice, assistance, and resources for young people with mental health issues.
3. Place2Be: www.place2be.org.uk - Place2Be is a UK charity that provides emotional, mental health, and well-being support to children and young people. They have a network of qualified counsellors and offer tools, resources, and advice for helping children and young people with mental health issues.
4. Mental Health Foundation: www.mentalhealth.org.uk - The Mental Health Foundation is a UK charity that offers a wide range of resources to assist those affected by mental health issues and those caring for them. They provide information and advice on mental health issues and offer resources such as the 'Children and Young People Mental Health Hub'.
5. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS): www.nhs.uk/conditions/camhs - CAMHS are specialist services providing assessment and treatment for children and adolescents with mental health problems and their families or carers. They provide advice on a range of mental health topics and help to support children and young people and their families.