In case you were not aware, this week has been dubbed Children’s Mental Health Week by the charity known as Place2Be, a UK organization who have been working with students, families and staff to provide young people with support through one-to-one and group counselling in schools. The campaign’s website states that ‘around three children in every primary school class has a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement’.
The statistics don’t shock me in the slightest, as I remember having my own struggles with my mental wellbeing as early as around 9 years old. From a young age I suffered with issues surrounding body image. There were times that I really believed that I was insane because of some of the thoughts I had – I hated myself and I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I can’t imagine how many children now go through this same struggle to an even higher extent with social media being so prominent in our lives (sorry to sound your grandma, but you know it’s true).
We had no education in mental health. No one told me that my mind could get sick. I’m relieved that we are finally getting to a place where we can normalise talking about the struggles we may be facing mentally, encouraging children to feel more comfortable to speak up when they need help.
No child should feel like they must suffer in silence; keeping it to themselves will only ever lead to having to fix the damage that was done in their childhood when they are adults. No one wants to be paying £70 an hour to sit in a therapists office to figure out that the reason they have self-esteem issues because when they were 5 people would always refer to their best friend Jenny as the pretty one and them as the funny one.
Best to resolve those issues when they arise, rather than repressing them until you have that inevitable mental breakdown in your 20s, don’t you think?
The theme that was chosen for this week is ‘Find your Brave’ – it’s all about encouraging young people (I mean let’s face it, us adults need some help in this area too) to feel comfortable in their own skin, own who they are and be confident with it.
But being brave does not mean having to cope with everything alone. Being brave means asking for help, talking about how you are feeling and the parts of life that are getting to you. Up until recently, the thought of having to really admit what was going on in my brain to others made me feel physically nauseous. But, at nearly 20 years old, I am so proud of myself for being at a point where I have normalised having these conversations and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not okay.
Talking about mental health with my friends and family now comes as easily to me as talking about what I’m having for lunch. I wouldn’t be embarrassed of having a cold, so why should I be embarrassed to be in state of anxiety or depression?
I just hope that children today come to understand this a lot quicker than I did. But guess what? They won’t learn how to be brave and talk about their struggles unless we give them the support to do so. They won’t know that it’s okay unless we tell them that it is. Let the boys cry, tell the girls it’s okay to be angry if that’s what they feel!
As adults, we all have a responsibility to make sure kids feel safe. Emotions can get confusing and scary for grown-ups, let alone for children. If you’re overwhelmed by whatever’s going on at home, how must your kid feel? Ask them, and then ask them again in a few days, and then check up again in a week.
It’s not just about starting the conversation; it’s about keeping it going.
If you want to find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week and how you can get involved, visit the website https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/about-the-week/ for more information.