Children’s Mental Health Week

Mental health is an important topic for all ages, but it’s especially important when it comes to children. During this week of awareness, it’s important to take time to educate ourselves on the importance of mental health and the unique challenges that children face.

Why Mental Health Matters for Kids

Mental health is a critical component of overall well-being, and it’s just as important in young people as in adults. Kids are especially vulnerable to stressors like bullying, changing family dynamics, and academic pressures. These factors can lead to poor mental health if left unchecked. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of signs that may indicate a child is struggling with mental health issues.  Some common signs include changes in behavior or mood, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, withdrawal from friends or activities they once enjoyed, and changes in eating habits.  If you notice any of these signs in your child, don’t hesitate to seek help from a licensed mental healthcare professional.

Why Mental Health Matters for Kids

It’s also important to empower kids with the knowledge necessary for them to take ownership of their own mental wellness. Teaching children about self-care practices such as mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help them manage stress more effectively over the long term. Additionally, encouraging open communication between parents and kids about any feelings or emotions they are experiencing can help create an environment of understanding and trust where children feel safe talking about their struggles without fear of judgment or rejection.

Creating Opportunities for Mental Wellness

When it comes to creating opportunities for children’s mental wellness, there are many things parents (and teachers) can do! One way is by providing kids with ample outlets for physical activity. Studies have shown that exercise helps reduce stress hormones while increasing feel-good endorphins! Additionally, taking part in creative activities like music or drawing can provide an outlet for self-expression while helping relax the mind and body. Finally, setting aside quality time each day focused on meaningful conversations with your children will allow them to share their thoughts and feelings without feeling rushed or distracted by other tasks that need attending.  It’s also important to remember that everyone needs some alone time every now and then. Encourage your kids to find activities they enjoy doing independently!

Creating Opportunities for Mental Wellness

Suicide Prevention in Schools

Equipping young people and school staff with suicide prevention skills is already part of the work being done by Olly’s Future, a charity set up by mother Ann Feloy whose son Olly Hare took his life at the age of 22 in 2017.

Talking about Suicide: Ten Tools is a 90-minute online training that has been delivered to over 3,000 participants, many of these being school staff.

As part of the training, attendees listen to an audio recording – a Life-Saving Conversation – between a pupil and a teacher to illustrate how to have a sensitive and non-judgemental conversation and to ask the question – “Are you thinking of suicide?”.

7% of under 18s have attempted to take their own lives (nationally this equates to over 52,000 children and young people)

Millennium Cohort Study, Office for National Statistics, 2021

A government review of relationships, sex, and health education (RSHE) guidance is set to consider adding new requirements for teaching about suicide prevention.  Ann applauded the move to bring suicide prevention onto the teaching spectrum.

‘It has to be the right way forward to raise awareness of this issue, especially among young people’ she said. 

The government agreed to the debate on Monday, March 13 after a petition by the ‘Three Dads Walking’ calling for action on the issue reached more than 100,000 signatures – it is now close to 160,000.

A statement on the petition reads: ‘We want suicide spoken about in schools in a safe and age-appropriate way. Speaking about suicide saves lives. The Department for Education (DFE) is conducting a review of the RSHE curriculum; this petition calls on the DFE to include suicide prevention within the statutory guidelines of the new curriculum.’

Suicide is the biggest killer of people under the age of 35 and we have sadly started to see the numbers of suicides for people of secondary school age increase.

Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley in Yorkshire, opened the debate with the tweet above.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak brought forward the timing of the review the RSHE review, which was due in September, after claims from Conservative MPs about ‘age-inappropriate’ lessons being taught in some schools.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb revealed in a recent Westminster Hall debate that the review will now also prioritise children’s mental health.

The minister said while guidance already contained content that is ‘important in suicide prevention’, the Department for Education ‘will look further at this as a priority area for the review and decide whether to add requirements on teaching about suicide’.

‘We need to consider the issues carefully before making it an absolute requirement’ he added, saying that mental health awareness, already covered by the curriculum, can have an impact on preventing suicide.

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