The parents and carers I meet through my job as a child and adolescent psychiatrist often tell me about young people in their lives who are suffering from anxiety or low mood. I can sometimes hear an element of desperation or hopelessness in their voice, which may come from the fact they have no idea what to do or how to seek help. They want to be able to support the young person in their life, but without having the tools to do so, their confidence as care-givers diminishes and that can have an enormous impact on the whole family unit.

Schools and community centres have taken steps to ensure that children and parents recognise the value of physical health, from the promotion of fresh fruit and vegetables to the need for regular exercise. But where are the messages about mental health?

These might include feeling anxious or unhappy, concerns about eating or weight and struggling to manage one’s behaviour. Age and maturity are obviously important factors, but signs to watch out for at any age include behaving like a younger child, withdrawing socially, losing interest in activities, struggling to learn or complete schoolwork, tearfulness and not eating or drinking. We know that children need to be safeguarded at all times, and providing a space for a child to say that they are experiencing neglect, bullying or abuse is a key part of maintaining wellbeing.

– Louise Theodosiou

Read more: Psychiatrist’s Quick Guide on How to Talk to Your Children About Mental Health

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