Mental Health Awareness Week Support
Kelly and Jamie Farr
Directors at YourNorth
Mental Health Awareness for children, young children and vulnerable adults
When asked about this subject I often consider my own experiences as a child and a young adult. The anxiety attached to starting a new school, the fashion, the haircuts, an absent parent, poverty; there are many factors that could negatively impact on your mental wellbeing. Growing up isn’t easy and for many children, just like adults, they can feel stigmatised and feel unable to approach people for help. Mental health is a term that draws negative attention, and it’s not viewed in the same way as physical health. For example, how many of you think of a mental health problem or condition when you hear the term mental health? Everyone has mental health; many of us are in good mental health, many are suffering and many are thriving, even with a diagnosed condition. The continuum exists just as the physical continuum does and recognition of this will significantly reduce stigma.
Definition of mental health
Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. One in four people in the UK will have a mental health problem at some point, which can affect their daily life, relationships or physical health. One or two in every 100 people will experience a more severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Mental health is a subject many of us find difficulty in discussing, it maybe fear of saying the wrong thing or a belief that you may make things worse. Yet, when you have a physical condition, people will chew your ear off and describe their experiences or a tell you about that friend of a friend who tried this oil and everything was better; everyone seems to be a GP when it comes to physical health. It is estimated at least 1 in 10 children will experience some kind of mental ill health and research suggests that this number is increasing, and the events of the past year will certainly add to the numbers. As with adults, the reasons behind a child’s mental health can vary, and whilst some children and young people do self-harm or contemplate taking their own lives, it’s important to know this is not the case for everyone. This is why we should not ignore the signs and hope it all goes away. There is a social stigma attached to mental ill health which is why it’s so important we lead by example and educate as many as we can, especially those who work with individuals, or groups of children and young people. We must inform them about mental ill health and how to help friends and family who may be experiencing problems. Knowledge dispels fear and therefore reduces stigma. Further information can be found at the Safeguarding Network relating to children and young people’s mental health.
Risk factors and how to provide support
This is a list of potential factors that can increase the risk of poor mental health: • Parental issues, for example, substance or alcohol misuse, mental health issues, or separation • Bereavement • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect • Bullying • Living in poverty, or homelessness • Children caring for adults • Significant issues at school If you are worried about a child, young person or a vulnerable adult, it’s important to try and get them to talk to you. Ask open questions such as “how are you feeling?”, and allow time for them to answer. If this is the first time they have had the opportunity to talk, it may take a while for them to articulate how they are feeling. Don’t be tempted to fill the silence; it is thinking time for them to say exactly what it is they are feeling. During the conversation, repeat back what they are saying; this confirms you’re actively listening and also confirms your understanding. It will help generate the rapport and trust needed for an honest conversation. Don’t try and solve a problem, focus on the person and show them you care; this is the most important you thing you can do. Allow them time to make their own decisions, they are then more likely to stick to their decisions, rather than what they are told from others.
What promotes good mental health
For children to remain mentally well they need: • Regular exercise and a healthy diet • Be able to explore and develop interests through interaction and play • To feel a sense of belonging, and feel part of the family • To feel supported with their learning and feel that they have a say • To be supported to learn how to solve a problem • To feel part of the community, school, nursery or college Remember, you don’t have to be an expert to help, and not every person regardless of age will react in the same way; everybody is different.
Here are some great YourNorth case studies
First Aid for Mental Health or Safeguarding training courses
If you would like to book on to one of our in person or online accredited First Aid for Mental Health or Safeguarding training courses, contact YourNorth, Your mental wellbeing is our priority.
Be the one that listens
If you are worried about a child, young person or a vulnerable adult, it’s important to try and get them to talk to you. During the conversation, repeat back what they are saying; this confirms you’re actively listening and also confirms your understanding.