Updated: Feb 17
As some may be aware, last week was Children's Mental health (week commencing 7th February). Children’s mental health is very often overlooked and hard to notice when a child may need support or be feeling low. Unfortunately, 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate treatment or any at all. (Mentalhealth.org)
This blog will; Explain what Children's mental health is and highlight signs to look out for that indicate a child may be struggling. Also, look at how you can help a child in need and self-care methods they can do. Finally, looking into factors that could impact a child's mental health.
What is Children’s Mental Health?
Being mentally stable is critical for all ages and has various impacts. Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think; regulating your feelings and behaviours. Covering the meaning of Children's mental health. It is beneficial to understand how effective their mental health can be.
Firstly, this is understanding that having poor mental health as a child does not only affect their self-esteem but also their;
Also, how they feel about themselves and those around them. As children, their brains are still developing with their thought processes and understanding of expressing themselves and their feelings. Therefore, resulting in still learning how to react in a situation.
Mental illnesses Children can have are:
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Conduct Disorder (CD)
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Children's mental health is no less important than our own. Children’s mental health is regularly defined as different to adult mental health and more multifaceted because of the developmental milestones that children experience. Unfortunately, poor mental health can also lead to self-harm in young people and even children. The number of children self-harming has doubled over the past six years and is now at its highest ever rate. Meaning an average of 10 hospital admissions every week.
Yes, unfortunately, these things do happen including suicides in children therefore, understanding how to help is critical.
Signs that a child may be mentally struggling
Symptoms and indications of a mental disorder in a child will change over time, making it harder to pick up on. There is no specific way a mental illness will be presented and no incorrect way to present itself so it is important to know signs will vary.
Warning signs that a child could be struggling mentally:
Persistent sadness — two or more weeks
Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
Talking about death or suicide
Outbursts or extreme irritability
Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful
Drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality
Changes in eating habits
Loss of weight
Frequent headaches or stomach aches
Changes in academic performance
Avoiding or missing school
Signs often develop in early childhood, although can begin to display in the teenage years.
Helping a child who is mentally struggling
When supporting a Child's mental well-being we should always keep in mind there is further professional help for children if required. Reaching out for additional support is beneficial to children. Extra care offers an increased support network for children. Allowing children to understand that they do not always have to feel their best and noticing it is acceptable to feel low.
Ways to help support children:
Positively talking to children - Making sure they are aware their low feelings are okay, helping to feel their emotions are valid.
Consolation - Even children may not feel like opening up. However, encouragement (not force) is beneficial as even talking to a friend could help a child.
Providing a safe environment - Creating a child to feel safe will help them become more relaxed and at peace with themselves.
Receiving further support - Always remember reaching out for additional help is nothing to feel ashamed about.
Having a clear understanding - If a child suffers a specific mental illness, researching that illness will help understand how that child may feel.
Acknowledgement - Once you have begun to notice where a child struggles in particular. Praising a child when they are doing well will motivate them. Helping them see their actions and emotions have not gone unnoticed.
Getting kids involved with food – with meal-planning, shopping, cooking and baking (even if a tad messy) from a young age can help develop a healthy relationship with food.
It is crucial to know how to talk to children as they are impressionable and still psychologically developing. Children are still learning how to process thoughts, feelings and emotions. Therefore, not coming across in a correct manner will lead to them misinterpreting what you are trying to say.
Self-care for children
While seeking further professional help and assisting with their mental health, it is also significant that they understand they can help themselves feel better. Educating children on self-care is profitable to them in many ways!
Things children can do:
Establish their boundaries - Encouraging children to have their boundaries to what they are and are not comfortable with.
Journaling - Writing down their feelings will help them feel as if they have released their negative emotions.
Creativity - Creativity can come in various forms – paint, stand-up comedy, drawing, music, singing, dance, singing to songs, doing skateboard tricks, sculpture and gardening.
Make a calm down box - This helps as once a child's stressed or low they, will not be able to think rationally about how to make themselves feel better.
By children taking part in a self-care routine, it provides them with a little bit of independence as well as responsibility. Allowing, the child to feel more positively about their capabilities and more in control. Self-care is also important for a child's personal development. Even small acts of self-care can have the biggest impact.
Factors that affect children’s mental health
Equivalent to adults, there can be factors in a child's life resulting in struggling mentally. Children are still psychologically developing meaning, they are perceived to be more sensitive to situations. They do not know how to process thoughts and emotions yet.
Hey, even as adults sometimes we struggle with processing our own emotions.
Things that affect a child's mental health
Having a parent who has mental problems - Studies have proven that mental illnesses are also hereditary as well as environmental.
Negative environment - If a child is brought up in negative surroundings that child then begins to see negativity as normal.
Death of someone close to them - Children are unable to process the concept of death which could leave them feeling confused.
Lack of support and communication - When taking care of children it is important they feel heard. Also, supported or they may begin to isolate themselves.
Experiencing bullying or abuse - Leaving a child feeling as if they are not worthy of respect and frightened will create their self-esteem to wither.
There are many more factors that could impact a child's mental health. However, with that being said a child could experience some of these situations and have no effect on their mental state. It is important to recognize that each person is different and impacted by different situations.
Unfortunately, most children suffer in silence as they do not feel confident enough to speak out or are unaware they could receive help and improve their mood.
If you would like to further your understanding and support those with mental health issues, we provide Mental Health First Aid courses.
One lady herself found this course very beneficial for the understanding of her son, saying;
"I was concerned about my son's mental health and had put it down to just being an adolescent. Having done this course I now feel better equipped to seek further support".
Displaying the benefits of understanding children's signals, allows us to offer the support needed.
For more information on the courses