Children’s mental health week is an annual event launched by the Place2Be organisation, dedicated to raising awareness for the youth’s mental wellbeing- this year taking place from Feb 6th– 12th. Children’s mental health week highlights the importance of supporting the number of children and young people struggling with their mental health.
Schools around the UK participate in numerous activities to elevate mental health awareness amongst young people.
Children’s mental health awareness
1 in 6 children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness.
50% of all mental health problems start by the age of 14 (The Children’s Society).
75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the support they need (Mental Health Foundation).
Let’s Connect This year’s theme for Children’s mental health week is ‘Lets Connect’. ‘Let’s connect’ aims to highlight the importance of children building meaningful connections with those around them for their mental wellbeing.
Let’s Connect is about making authentic connections by expressing our thoughts and feelings with our loved ones, during mental health week- and beyond. It shines light on the misconception that we should only address how we feel when it grows into a serious or diagnosable problem, highlighting how children creating healthy bonds may serve as an early intervention against any critical situations developing.
Humans are a social species; thus, children intrinsically strive to build relationships with those around them- Let’s Connect is about ensuring these relationships are healthy.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Trust and honesty
Good communication and transparency
Equality and balance of power
Clear safe boundaries
Why; The importance of healthy relationships. A plethora of research has demonstrated that supportive relationships are a key protective mechanism against poor mental health in children, particularly amongst those who have experienced adversity. Studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between healthy relationships with parents and children’s mental health, underlining how they encourage a child’s social and emotional wellbeing (Gilman & Huebner, 2003; Oberle et al., 2011).
Moreover, healthy relationships between children and their teachers have shown to develop a child’s social competencies and self-esteem, which are promotive factors for good mental health, as well as positively impacting children’s academic engagement and achievement, problem-solving skills, and sense of purpose and autonomy (Morrison & Allen, 2007) again all of which promote a healthy well-being.
Additionally, to truly understand the significance of supportive childhood relationships it is paramount to consider the wealth of research suggesting that childhood bonds, including those with a child’s primary caregiver but not limited to facilitate the development of “internal working models” (Bowlby, 1980). An internal working model is a mental frame works that assists individuals to understand themselves and others by predicting and navigating their environment, impacting their cognitive development and future relationships. Multiple research studies have suggested that the availability of supportive relationships during childhood are an important determinant of mental wellbeing in childhood and across the individual’s whole life course (Hughes et al., 2018).
To conclude, there is a wealth of research that provides evidence for the interrelationship between strong social connections and mental health. Thus, in order to support a child’s mental health, we must be prepared to provide them with supportive relationships.
A summary of the positive effects of healthy childhood relationships:
Builds a positive internal working model; influencing the nature of future relationships & long term perception of the world.
Improved self-esteem and confidence.
Elevated cognitive development.
Lower rates of anxiety and depression.
Greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships.
Gives children a sense of belonging.
Help develop healthy communication skills
Teaches children to trust their own abilities.
The only thing left to know is- How to create these healthy supportive relationships and participate in this year’s theme ‘Lets Connect’.
Here are some of our tips on how to encourage children and young people to participate in ‘Lets Connect’ all year round:
Show interest: The first step is to show children that you care. You can do this by regularly asking how their day was and how they’re feeling, so that they become accustomed to talking about how they feel and in turn identify you as someone they can confide in.
Unconditional Love: It is vital for children to believe that you will love them regardless of their shortcomings. Children may avoid sharing their experiences due to fear of being judged or ridiculed for their mistakes. It is essential that you communicate to children that mistakes are an inevitable part of life and that it is okay to make them!
Encourage their interests: Support and encourage them to explore their interests, without showing judgement about them.
Mutual respect: Mutual respect includes valuing a child’s boundaries and decisions. It means to dispel power imbalances that result from double standards, breaking agreements and lying which often result in secrecy and fear and instead can create an environment of trust and equality.
Transparency: It’s important to realise that children, though inexperienced, are intellectual, emotional and have a mind of their own. They infer social cues and are much more aware than they are accredited for. It is important to make them feel like you trust them and value their opinions and acknowledge their intelligence.
Encouraging children to participate in ‘Lets connect’ leaves less room for adults to underestimate a young person’s mental health challenges. However, it can be difficult to know if something is upsetting a child if they do not directly tell you, thus bMindful psychology have compiled a list of signs that you can look out for:
Withdrawing from social situations
Disinterest in their usual hobbies
Significant and seemingly random changes in behaviour and personality
Attention seeking behaviour such as misbehaving in school. The organisation ‘Mind’ found that 48% of young people have reported that they were disciplined at school for behaviour that was related to their mental health.
Ongoing difficulty sleeping
Fatigue and oversleeping
Intense emotional reactions to situations
To conclude, in the spirit of this year’s theme, bMindful Psychology encourages everyone to reach out to the young people around them and to aspire to create healthy relationships one step at a time. If you feel you need support or would like to speak to a qualified professional regarding your wellbeing, one of our clinicians at bMindful can offer advice and guidance. Contact 0161 510 0111 or visit our website.