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Our Favourite Ways of Noticing and Responding to Mental Health Problems in Children

Our Children's mental health is currently a rising issue. With The Guardian calling for action over the "UK's intolerable child mental health crisis" it is clear that this problem cannot continue to grow.

 

Indeed, mental health problems in young people are more widespread than you'd initially think. Around 1/10 young people and children are affected, with problems including depression, anxiety and various behavioural disorders. What's even more concerning is that children are often left to cope without any support; an issue that is underlined by the startling revelation from the Mental Health Foundation that 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem do not receive appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

In response, we spoke to Olivia Huxtable, founder of Be Mankind - a student-led mental health campaign at the University of Bristol - for advice on how to deal with mental health issues in young people.

How to Support your Children

What warning signs should parents look out for when it comes to their children's mental health?

Silence is a big warning sign. If your child isn't as chatty as usual, or isn't keen to play as often as they normally want to, it could be that they are feeling low. Often if bullying is the case, a child doesn't want to go to school. So you should keep an eye on how enthusiastic they are to do the things they usually enjoy.

In an extreme case, self-harming is something you need to be alert for. If your child refuses to show their arms or a certain part of their body, or is aggravated when changing their clothes, this could be a sign.

What steps can you take to help if you are concerned?

Currently we are seeing a big push towards encouraging people to talk more openly about mental health. As a parent, it's important to start these conversations from a young age. 

They don't have to be explicitly about mental health, the danger is that you don't want to align their feelings directly with words such as 'depression', 'anxiety', etc. Because if children start linking those words and the way the media and society uses those words to their own feelings, they may start to overthink/feel panicked.

Instead, just work on building a relationship where your child feels comfortable talking to you. At a young age, this may be talking about things such as: who their friends are in school, how their friends treat them, how they treat others, if they know of anyone being picked on at school, if they have someone to eat lunch with and play with etc.

If you've already laid the foundations to be able to talk openly, during the teen years when they hit puberty, the conversations around sexual relationships should be easier.

As a step of action, going into the school to speak to their teacher could give you an insight into what their school life is like. It may be easy for children to portray their school experience differently to you, and a parent's evening once a term isn't sufficient enough to monitor their wellbeing. If you're worried, make a visit to the school to ask if anything is happening, or if your child is acting up in class. The fact you have highlighted your concern to a teacher means they will pay more attention too.

What organisations are there available to offer support children's mental health?

Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition: Campaigning on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Childline: Free, national helpline for children and young people in trouble or danger.

Children's Society: Fighting to get children and young people the help they need through our innovative frontline services, ground-breaking research and campaigning.

Nightline: Listening, support and information service run by students for students. 

Place2Be: Place2Be provides emotional and therapeutic services in primary and secondary schools, building children's resilience through talking, creative work and play. Place2Be provides children's mental health services in 294 primary and secondary schools, reaching a total school population of 142,000 pupils, helping them to cope with wide-ranging and often complex social issues.  

Young Minds: Provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person. 

For more information on Olivia's work, visit Be Mankind

 
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