Every year we celebrate World Mental Health Day on 10 October. The theme for 2023, set by the World Foundation of Mental Health, is ‘Mental health is a universal human right’.
World Mental Health Day is about raising awareness of mental health and driving positive change for everyone’s mental health.
It’s also a chance to talk about mental health, how we need to look after it, and how important it is to get help if you are struggling.
You can come together with friends, families or colleagues this World Mental Health Day, by holding a Tea & Talk! – but it’s really more important to check in and keep the lines of communication at home on a more regular basis – when you’re walking and talking, cooking and talking, driving and talking, eating and talking, chatting at bedtime and talking but more importantly it’s all about listening too!
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and adolescents around the world.
Some key points to consider regarding your children and their mental health since the pandemic are:
Increased Anxiety and Stress: Children may have experienced heightened anxiety and stress due to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, such as concerns about their health, the health of loved ones, and disruptions to their daily routines that still lingers within them.
Social Isolation: Lockdowns, social distancing, and remote learning led to social isolation for many children. Lack of in-person social interaction with peers and extended family members contributed to feelings of loneliness and sadness that has affected their confidence.
Disrupted Education: Remote learning and disruptions to the school year had various effects on children’s education. Some struggled with the transition to online learning, leading to frustration and decreased motivation – which still continues as some UK schools are affected by the RAAC – Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete problems.
Loss and Grief: Many children experienced the loss of loved ones, changes in family dynamics, and missed opportunities for important milestones like graduations and celebrations, which led to grief and sadness.
Screen Time and Technology: Increased screen time due to remote learning and social interaction through screens raised concerns about the potential impact on children’s mental health and well-being.
Financial Stress: Economic hardships faced by families since the pandemic has caused continued stress and anxiety for children who are aware of their family’s financial struggles.
Mental Health Services: Access to mental health services have been oversubscribed since the pandemic, which has severely affected children’s ability to seek help when needed with huge waiting lists.
Resilience and Coping: On the positive side, some children have developed resilience and learned valuable coping strategies because of the pandemic, including adaptability and the importance of self-care.
Parental Support: Your role as parents and caregivers in providing emotional support and maintaining open communication with your children about their feelings and concerns is crucial to helping your child navigate the ups and downs of life.
It’s important to recognise that the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health varied greatly from one individual to another. Some children may have coped relatively well, while others may continue to struggle with mental health challenges.
Providing support, open communication, and access to mental health resources are essential components of helping children navigate these challenges.
It’s important to approach discussions about worries, anxieties, and mental health with children of all ages in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner regularly.
Here are some questions you can ask children of different age groups to open up a conversation about these topics for World Health Day:
For Young Children (Ages 3-7):
What makes you feel happy and safe?
Is there anything that makes you feel scared or worried sometimes?
Can you tell me about a time when you felt really happy?
Who are the people you can talk to if you’re feeling upset or scared?
What helps you feel better when you’re sad or anxious?
For Middle Childhood (Ages 8-12):
Are there any stressors or challenges you’re facing right now?
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by schoolwork or activities?
How do you handle difficult situations or problems at school or with friends?
Do you know the difference between physical health and mental health?
Can you name some things that you think are good for your mental well-being?
For Adolescents (Ages 13-18):
How do you manage stress in your life?
Are there any peer pressures or social situations that concern you?
Have you ever experienced anxiety or panic attacks? If so, what did they feel like?
Do you feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult about your feelings and concerns?
Are there any specific goals or strategies you have for maintaining good mental health?
Remember to listen actively, without judgment, and provide reassurance that it’s okay to have worries and that there are ways to cope with them. Encourage them to seek help from trusted adults or professionals if they ever feel overwhelmed or their mental health is suffering. Additionally, tailor your questions to the child’s individual circumstances and maturity level.
Don’t forget to take care of your own metal health.
Check out my video Simple Ways To Improve Your Mental Health & Wellbeing with Sue Atkins
Check out: Mums and Babies in Mind: This programme supports local leaders in four areas of England to improve quality of life for mums with mental health problems.
Single Parents: Run by single parents for single parents, this programme provides a compassionate, motivated and empowering approach to being a single parent.
Young Mums Connect: Young Mums Connect is a three-year peer support project for young mothers that uses a creative, whole-family approach to mental health prevention within a community setting.
Amplifying Maternal Voice: The Amplifying Maternal Voices (AMV) project will spotlight the maternal mental health experiences of mothers from seldom heard communities.