We can easily spot the signs of ill health in our children; things like coughing, listlessness or runny noses are pretty simple examples. What are more difficult to spot are the signs of diminishing mental health.
Yet mental health issues still seem to be on the rise. And as was reported recenly, charities like Childline are calling for better provision for these children as school, exam and testing pressures are increasing.
But homework, revision, and other school pressures are not the only things affecting young people’s wellbeing. The teen charity stem4 which supports teen mental health, published a survey that suggested other elements of young lifestyles like body image, social networking, bullying, current affairs or crises, or stressful family lifestyles also contribute, leading to anxiety and depression. Many children are regularly subjected to environments that can impair mental wellbeing. It seems young people have more on their shoulders than previous generations.
Most are able to cope but occasionally this is not the case and symptoms that the youngsters are not coping so well can remain hidden.
The kind of things we should look out for are very similar to symptoms any of us might experience with regard to our own mental health. We are all susceptible to mental health problems at any time and the Independent recently listed signs that indicate our mental health may becoming eroded.
But these also apply to the youngsters. Things to look out for are changes in their general habits like withdrawal, lack of energy, smiling or willingness to interact, general malaise, apathy or a negative attitude to things they once found inspiring, trouble sleeping or concentrating.
However, rather than leaving their mental well being to get to this point a better approach is to cultivate family habits that support good mental health, just as we would support their physical health by encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits for example. And the Mental Health Foundation gives an idea of the kinds of lifestyle choices that support good health; nutrition and exercise routines being among them.
They suggest that regular exercise should make up part of those routines, as should active play or other sport both inside and outside. Plus time out from educational pressures. Other things that help youngsters remain mentally well include the togetherness of the family, listening and talking things through, and taking part in local activities. Overall feeling encouraged and loved within their family and learning community helps enormously.
It is inevitable that provision of those circumstances is going to fluctuate and change, as life does. However, whatever changes we all go through, paying as much attention to our youngsters’ mental health as their physical health will help avoid them becoming one of the alarming statistics. A listening ear, time to talk about what’s troubling them, showing support and empathy for their feelings and concerns, healthy family habits and moving through any issues together will all contribute to them staying well.