From the playground to the boardroom: mental health at all levels

Children’s Mental Health Week

Children’s Mental Health Week has been recognised as a national week since 2015. It is essential to think about mental health at all levels given that 50% of mental-ill health starts in children aged 5-11. Schools are aware that children in every class have diagnosable mental health conditions. In addition, there are more children and young people who struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement.

My involvement

I am very privileged to be a school governor at Manor High School that takes well-being and mental health very seriously. Yesterday for example, the Deputy Headteacher and her team had organised a whole day of well-being activities as part of Children’s Mental Health Week 2018. Pupils were able to attend sessions such as meditation, mindful colouring, Tae Kwon Do, drama games for laughter, salsa and nutrition. Supporting the students to develop #skillsforlife to manage their own self- care holistically.

This was followed by a Curry and Chaat evening, the Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 national campaign. I met parents, teachers and young people enthused by the School and its ethos, in addition to eating some truly delicious food donated for this excellent cause. Understanding mental health and identifying mental-ill health should start at a young age to break down stigma, support others and know when and how to ask for help.

Mental Health at all Levels

As pupils transition from school, to university, to the workplace there will be several pinch points where times may be more challenging. By embedding mental health literacy at a young age this can build personal resilience. Resilience is one piece of this intricate puzzle. It must also be acknowledged that increased funding is required for youth-centred CAMHS mental health services and support. Mental health services are tragically under funded at the moment. Nevertheless, there are key cornerstones that provide the foundation for mental well-being from childhood through to adulthood.

How to manage mental wellbeing proactively

1. Diet

A balanced diet is essential as we grow, but equally at every age and stage of life. Reducing sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine intake can have a positive effect on your mental-health. Replacing these food with fruits, vegetables, increased protein-based foods and omega-3-fatty acids is a way to start. Not only does this enhance mental health, but physical health too. If you don’t believe me, watch Mind’s video on Mood and Food below.

2. Exercise

It’s been shown that exercise can provide quick relief for low moods and mild depression and anxiety. This doesn’t have to be about running a marathon either. Going for a walk, dancing and team sports all help to boost serotonin levels and clear the mind. It also boosts self-esteem and helps us to sleep better.

3. Self-Esteem

Self-esteem and mental health go hand-in-hand. Which is more often than not shaped at a young age in the playground or by traumatic experiences. Celebrating your strengths and talents regularly builds up a sense of self-worth. Keep a gratitude diary as a family (however you define your family unit) and reflect on all the positive achievements, no matter how big or small. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is another element to building self-esteem at all ages.

4. Social Media Management

Managing social media, even though the jury is still out as to whether social media can help or hinder people who experience mental-ill health. Some research has found Facebook can cause depression and other studies say it can help. The key message for young people and adults alike is balance. A “digital detox” at least one prior to bed can promote a more restful and deep sleep. Enabling our minds to function better the next day. Parents and carers will need to prepare young people for a digitised world and the difference between a digital persona and reality.

5. Asking for help

Asking for help when you need to. Young Minds have fantastic online resources for young people about when and how to have the conversation. Asking for help as an adult can also seem very daunting, but the same rules will apply. Many workplaces will have employee assistance programmes and it is a good place to start as well as talking to your GP.

As Children’s Mental Health Week draws to a close on Sunday, let’s all learn from the events, information and campaigns to encourage young people to keep talking about mental health and ill-health. This will reduce stigma, which filters into the study and workplace. Young people being themselves is the best way to be, so let’s support them to do just that all year round.

How do you support children’s mental health? Whether you are a parent, carer, guardian or child-free?

For information about training that could support your workforce or students contact me to find out more.

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