Five lessons children should learn about mental health in today’s society

Many of us are struggling with our mental health these days. There’s a crisis across the UK and it’s leading to all manner of challenges for people from anxiety and depression to addiction.

We all understand the messaging around speaking out about challenges, while we also all know how difficult that can be to do just that. Today, people struggling with mental health is all around us and in fact there has been a rise in children with mental health challenges. In fact, an NHS report suggested that almost one in five children aged between 7 and 16 have mental disorders, alongside 22% of those aged 17 to 24.

Therefore, it’s important for children to learn about mental health from an earlier age, so they can recognise when they may have an issue and do something about it. So, here are five things as a parent we need to be discussing with them…

Understanding Emotions

The first lesson children need to understand about mental health is actually recognising the names of their feelings. Teach them all emotions are normal, and allow them to be able to label happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, nerves and anger to name a few. This will allow them to open up more about how they’re feeling and validate their experiences and feelings without judgement. This can create a much deeper sense of self-awareness as well as empathy towards others.

Destigmatising Mental Health

A crucial lesson is to destigmatise mental health. This is incredibly important as it will break down stigmas and encourage them to reach out if they aren’t quite feeling themselves. It’ll allow them to understand that there’s no shame in suffering from anxiety, depression and that mental health conditions such as those, as well as conditions such as ADHD can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender or background.

Answer any questions they have honestly and encourage your child to challenge the misconceptions around mental health.

Understanding the Risks of Bottling Emotions Up

A key lesson that should also be taught is highlighting the risks of what could happen if you bottle up emotions and mental health. Discuss how it can lead to much more severe mental health problems, including the likes of addiction. Addiction in itself is a mental health condition and many people who go through a drug rehab can trace their condition back to poor mental health and turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, with it then spiralling out of control.

The Importance of Support

Alongside the risks, highlight the importance of support too. Teaching them that it’s ok to ask for help and that there are many opportunities out there to receive help can be illuminating and encouraging for children. Whether it be us as parents, teachers, school counsellors or support lines, there are ways in which they can discuss their emotions with whom they feel comfortable. Discuss how reaching out is a sign of strength not weakness and that there are lots of people out there who care about them and want to help should they need it.

Practising Self-Care

Finally, teaching children the importance of self-care is an excellent way to encourage them to nurture their own mental wellbeing. Discuss activities that are proven to improve mental health and that they also may find joy, relaxation and fulfilment from. Activities that involve being outdoors, exercise, even mindfulness and meditation can all be useful, even to children.

Talk about coping strategies for if they are feeling stressed, such as breathing exercises or journaling, while encouraging them to get enough rest and eat healthily, although of course we’re largely in charge of that anyway. By doing this it can help build resilience and combined with the lessons above it can provide them with the ideal platform to understand mental health and manage and maintain it effectively.

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