Mental health problems are said to affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. Symptoms include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and are often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
According to the UK-based Mental Health Foundation, 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. This news comes as we have just staged World Mental Health day, staged annually on 10 October.
The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health, says the Mental Health Foundation as explains good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Among the areas which can assist children to be mentally well are being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise; having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors; being part of a family that gets along well most of the time; going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils; taking part in local activities for young people. Other factors are also important, including: feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves, being hopeful and optimistic and being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed. All of the above clearly underline the importance of a good education and a health home environment.
With society changing in recent years and at a rapid rate, surveys suggest that more children and young people have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can cause young people to become extremely worried. Very young children or children starting or moving school may have separation anxiety.
Children who are consistently overactive ('hyperactive'), behave impulsively and have difficulty paying attention may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many more boys than girls are affected, but the cause of ADHD aren't fully understood. The Mental Health Foundation also recommends if your child is having problems at school, a teacher, school nurse, school counsellor or educational psychologist may be able to help.
It was not just Mental Health we celebrated this month, with International Teachers’ day being held on 5 October. Teachers are a fundamental cornerstone of a child’s physical and mental well-being and their influence on our societies the world over cannot be over-emphasized. Thank you teachers!