Part of our role as educators and parents is to facilitate positive mental health. A new resource to raise awareness of the issue has just been produced that may be useful.
‘We All Have Mental Health’ is the title of an animated film for teachers and parents to facilitate conversations with children about their mental well being.
It comes from the Anna Freud National Centre for children and Families as part of a move to make it easier to bring up this sensitive issue with young people.
The decline in children’s mental wellbeing has been much in the news over recent years. Incidents of self harm and eating disorders are on the rise and teachers and parents feel ill-equipped to deal with them say campaigners.
It’s been suggested that this rise is the result of many factors such as children experiencing difficult family circumstances, the increased pressures in school, the cuts to subjects that contribute to feelings of fulfilment like sports and the arts, the rise in the use of social media platforms, lack of recreational time out of doors away from the digital world, bullying both physically and online, poverty – in all its forms, and the general pressures of modern lifestyles.
Many teachers are worried by seeing increasing numbers of children with challenging problems, self harm among them – evident at younger ages than ever before, and are dealing with issues beyond their expertise. And many parents worry about the seductive influences that surround their kids particularly through the media. That anxiety is increased by long waiting lists when seeking support from professional services.
In response to this the government is initiating plans for every school to have a member of staff with awareness training to help with any mental health issues in schools by 2022. And promote good mental health, raising awareness of it as something we need to be conscious of, which is what the film aims to do.
Mental health has tended to be a taboo subject little talked about in families yet it is often simple conversations and children being listened to that can tip the balance between a child who is merely troubled with everyday feelings of anxiety or overwhelm, which are common to most and need a chance to be aired, or becoming mentally unwell to the point of it inhibiting their daily life.
So it’s essential to talk about the things that keep youngsters well mentally just as we would talk about other aspects of a healthy lifestyle like diet and exercise. For example activities like engaging with a variety of recreational pursuits, music, taking time out for rest, and even meditation which can be done through walking in the park as much as sitting still in contemplation, are examples.
Lucy Dimbylow talking in The Metro has some useful tips on how to talk about mental health with young people.
And Mind, the charity for better mental health offers valuable advice here.
But whichever way we tackle it, it is important to make discussions about mental wellbeing relaxed, open and honest and an essential element of learning about daily care as any health issue would be. The more conversations that take place the easier it will be for children to remain well, seek the help they need, or offer support to others who they feel may be suffering.