Health leaders share tips on how to support children's mental wellbeing

Sad mother hugging her young daughter on home corridor floor.

Parents and carers are encouraged to look out for signs of poor mental health in their children. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parents and carers are being encouraged to talk to their children about how they are feeling as part of Children’s Mental Health Week. 

Around three children in every primary school class has a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement. 

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS (AWP) Trust is encouraging young people to think about how they are feeling, and explore ways they can express themselves, during the awareness week which runs from February 1-7. 

Ailsa Fullarton, from AWP’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), said: “It’s been a very difficult and challenging 12 months for many children who have faced periods away from school, friends, clubs and their other usual support networks. Many children and young people may have experienced anxiety about the pandemic and may feel things are out of their control. 

“If you notice a change in your child’s mood, behaviour or personality, persistent sadness for two or more weeks, difficulty concentrating or withdrawal from social interactions, even those online, it’s a good idea to try and have a conversation with your child about their feelings and engage with some of the support ideas listed below. If things persist or get no better and you continue to feel worried please seek help via your school or GP.” 

Signs of poor mental health in children include persistent sadness for two or more weeks, withdrawing from social interactions, drastic changes in mood or behaviour, changes in eating habits, and outbursts or extreme irritability. 

Other signs include talking about death or suicide, self-harming, out-of-control behaviour that can cause harm, changes in eating habits, loss of weight, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, frequent headaches or stomach aches, and changes in academic performance. 

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Advice for parents and carers on how to support children includes answering questions in an age-appropriate way; encouraging them to exercise and do things they enjoy; engaging in positive activities together; and taking part in creative activities. Keeping regular routines also helps children to feel safe and secure. 

Parents are advised to talk to their child’s school or GP if they are in need of more support. Useful websites include www.youngminds.org.uk www.minded.org.uk  www.calm.com and www.headspace.com

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