Children’s mental health in Britain is seeing a steady decline, with the latest statistics showing that over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 18. In the news out today, Childline even revealed it has carried out its highest number of counselling sessions with young people having suicidal thoughts. In 2016-17, a total of 22,456 sessions were given to UK children.
Surveys suggest that factors such as school, financial worry and an increased terror threat are all taking their toll on ‘Generation Z’, so what can we do to support their mental health and promote a positive environment in which they can thrive?
While many parents might know that their child is suffering from a condition, many might not necessarily be able to understand and know how they can help. We spoke to David Brudö, CEO and co-founder at personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente, about the small, every day things you can do to help.
1. Encourage conversation
In a world where emojis are replacing words and expressions of emotion reduced to acronyms and abbreviations, it’s arguably more important than ever to take some time out to talk to your child without overwhelming or intimidating them. The conversation doesn’t even necessarily have to be about mental health – it’s just about making them feel comfortable with talking to you so that, if something does start upsetting or worrying them, they know who to turn to.
“Be casual when you first start the conversation and let them speak, without voicing too many of your own opinions. That way, you will make sure that they tell you how they feel, instead of what they think you’d like to hear. Talking to your child about mental health is a good thing and if they want to discuss it with you, all the better. Remind them that you are the person they can talk to about anything and that you will always hear them out. The more secure they feel about talking to you, about problems big or small, the more likely they are to be open.”
2. Be patient
The thought that your child’s mental wellbeing might be suffering is undoubtedly hugely worrying for a parent, and this worry can often turn to frustration and feelings of helplessness. However, it is important to hold your own until your child is ready to share.
“In the UK, it is thought that one in six people will be affected by mental health conditions and for most, it can take some time to open up, acknowledge their feelings and be able to articulate them fully. This is the same for a child, who might also feel ashamed or embarrassed. It is important that you don’t push them and let them talk to you when they are comfortable, not because they are pressurised to do so. Patience can be especially difficult for parents, as they want to help and might feel frustrated at times, but try to persevere and remain calm.”
– Jenny Cook