During the month of February, there is a real focus on the mental health of children and young people, especially during Children’s Mental Health Week which this year takes place between 7th – 13th Feb. This year’s week will have a theme of “Growing Together”, which will encourage young people and the adults in their lives, how they can help others to grow and how they have grown themselves.
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health and you think their life is in immediate danger, call 999.
Though every child is different and some may not appear to be struggling, be sure to look out for any sudden changes in behaviour, especially if they have become argumentative, defensive or showing signs of having a negative thinking pattern. You may also notice that they may either be sleeping too much or too little and trying to avoid going to school. Anxiety and depression in young people may also manifest as mysterious aches and pains, so be sure to take anything that seems unusual or new seriously.
There are several reasons why your child may experience mental health problems. Tests, exams and pressure at school can cause increased anxiety or depression, which may then become a generalised anxiety disorder which bleeds into other areas of their life. Similarly, family incidents can cause their mental health to spiral, especially if it is a large upheaval like a divorce or a death or illness. Everyone reacts to situations differently and you know your child best, so you try talking to them before involving any third parties. You can find advice and support from organisations and charities like the NHS, Young Minds and Place2Be, who organise Children’s Mental Health Week.
Other resources are available from BEAT, who help with Eating Disorders, FRANK, who can help with addiction issues and the NSPCC.
There are some things you can do at home to help your child if they are struggling. For older children, make time to hang out with them and check in, just the two of you. By doing this, you can help validate their feelings and help them deal with them effectively. For younger children, do the same, but encourage play while you talk as this will help with relieving any feelings of anxiety they may be feeling.