Ambassador Series: Accessing Support
World Mental Health Day’s theme this year was ‘Greater Access for All’. Our Young Ambassadors have written blogs to explore challenges of reaching out for help and the difficulties of feeling supported as a young person. We’re adding to this series by exploring what greater investment of time and support can do to help young people struggling with their mental health.
Why we need to invest
75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday but it doesn’t have to be that way. These numbers can change through greater investment and simply encouraging everyone in contact with children and young people to invest time in providing emotional support and reducing stigmas. This means that, as friends, parents and teachers, there are some simple things we can all do to help because every young person that struggles with mental health matters.
How can friends help?
Your relationships with friends can help them to flourish, open up without fear of judgement and know that they are not alone.
Here are three ways to invest time into helping your friends:
- Be a friend. Simply being there to listen to your friend can make the world of difference. For example, setting aside time to talk to them and offering to help them in seeking professional support (e.g. offering to go to a GP appointment with them) are ways to help.
- Be inclusive. For those feeling lonely, the warmth of friendship can help boost their self-worth and self-esteem. Take every opportunity to make friends with people who seem lonely or who spend a lot of time on their own.
- Take action. Speaking out about mental health can reduce the stigmas surrounding mental illness. If you feel there is something your school or family could do promote positive mental health and wellbeing, speak out. Your voice matters.
How can parents help?
For a young person going through mental health difficulties, being able to open up to someone they love and trust can be transformational.
Here are three ways to invest time in supporting children and young people at home:
- Create space where your child or young person can open up. To get your child used to talking about their feelings and to let them know there’s always someone to listen: regularly ask them how they are doing (for good conversation starters visit https://youngminds.org.uk/starting-a-conversation-with-your-child/starting-the-conversation/ ), show interest in their life and things important to them, help them to explore new interests and listen to and value what they say.
- Help them to understand their difficulties. Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour and try to help them understand what they’re feeling and why.
- Build routines. Sleep, exercise, and healthy eating all contribute to wellbeing so implementing these in routines is important.
How can teachers help?
Children and young people spend a large proportion of their time in school, creating opportunities for teachers to both educate about mental illness, and to be there for pupils – especially at stressful times during their education.
Here are three ways to invest time into promoting positive mental health in schools:
- Reduce the stigma. To encourage pupils suffering to speak out and seek help, make mental health a priority in your school. This can be through discussing mental health in PHSCE, assemblies and tutor time; celebrating awareness days; and inviting charities, such as Dorset Mind, to give talks.
- Encourage social and extra-curricular activities. Exam pressures and workload can have significant effects on students’ wellbeing. Schedule time for students to interact with each other and run lunchtime clubs with a focused activity (baking, drama, book clubs, chess etc.). This gives them the opportunity to build relationships and get creative.
- Be there. Let your students know you are always there to listen and understand when greater support is needed.
If you are concerned about a child or young person’s mental health, you can find advice and more information at the following places:
- Dorset Mind Your Head website– information on young people’s mental health and to refer to our support services.
- Young Minds website – information and advice about young people’s mental health.
- Young Minds Parents Helpline – free, confidential advice via phone, email or webchat.
- NHS Every Mind Matters – Advice and information for parents and young people.
- NHS children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) – information about available services.
Thanks to our Young Ambassador Becky, for writing this inspiring blog.
Check back for more in this series from our Young Ambassadors soon.