Updated: Feb 8
1 Feb 2021 – 7 Feb 2021 marks Children's Mental Health week 2021. Funnily enough, I've never heard of Children's Mental Health week before this year. It's telling that it seems to be spoken about so much more after the year we have had. Mental Health more than ever is at the forefront of our minds, in particular when it comes to our children, who have faced constant change and disruption to their day to day lives over the last 12 months.
Whether you are in the "Open the schools! Our children's mental health demands it" camp, or on the side of the more literal "Keep them closed! Our physical health depends on it" - it really doesn't matter.
One thing we all agree on, is that our children's wellbeing is at the forefront of our argument.
You can find lots of useful resources on the official website https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/schools-and-youth-groups/ to help open the conversation about mental health between you and your child. There are lots of fun and interactive activities taking place throughout the week which might be of interest to you if you do find you have a pocket of time and can squeeze it in around home-schooling!
The proportion of children experiencing a mental disorder has significantly increased over the last three years, rising from 1/9 in 2017 to 1/6 in July last year. It's arguable that our children are facing more academic pressure than ever, forced to self motivate themselves to learn at home, they also have the inevitable catch up effort upon their return to school looming over them. Whilst exams were cancelled, learning was not and many children are expected to be present online for live learning throughout the school day. Combine this sudden change with a lack of social interaction and activity for the last year and I'm fairly confident that we will see another significant rise in these numbers over the next 12 months.
https://www.place2be.org.uk has the following advice.
Does my child or young person need mental health support?
It’s normal to feel angry, sad, worried or stressed sometimes.
However, if they’re struggling to cope with those feelings, they might need support.
Look out for:
Sudden changes in behaviour
Negative thoughts and low self-esteem
Arguing and fighting
Avoiding school or staying with you all the time
Aches and pains
Remember – everyone is different and these signs might not have anything to do with a mental health problem.
If you do have any concerns about your child's mental health or simply want to better educate yourself and learn some useful tools to equip you to monitor it closely, the Place2B website is a great place to start.
Although this week and it's celebrity and royal endorsements have shone a light on the issue, this is really a conversation that we need to keep having. A topic that we need to keep bringing to the surface, an issue that we must continue to discuss, and in the current situation something we should continue to monitor closely.
Almost a third (29%) of parents admit they would feel embarrassed if their child wanted counselling, and 34% feel other parents would judge them, according to new research published by Place2Be last week. If your child is struggling, or you are concerned about a change in their mood or behaviour, you are not alone. Don't be afraid to speak out or seek help from one of the resources below:
Shout (in partnership with Place2Be)
Text CONNECT to 85258
For: anyone in the UK
Available: free, 24 hours a day
More info: giveusashout.org
3. The Young Minds Parents Helpline, which you can call for free on 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4pm, Monday-Friday, UK).