Mental health among children and young people is becoming an increasing problem in the UK. With the pressures of school, social media and other circumstances contributing to stress, depression, anxiety and more, it’s something that’s becoming a growing concern for parents, schools and health experts.
Identifying mental health issues in young children at an early stage is important, as is taking steps to support their mental and physical wellbeing.
Mental health in under 11s
The NSPCC has obtained figures that show that the number of mental health treatment referrals by schools has grown rapidly in recent years, with over half coming from primary schools. Greater awareness in schools has meant that more children are receiving the help they need, but further support is needed to make sure that children receive better mental health care and faster responses for treatment.
While they might display symptoms differently, children can display many of the same signs of mental illness as adults. The difference, however, is that it’s up to adults to spot these signs in children to help get them the support they need.
Spotting the warning signs
It’s not always easy to spot the warning signs of a mental health issue in a young person, but some of the things you can look out for include:
- Mood changes that last for days or weeks at a time, such as sadness or becoming withdrawn. They might display anger at home or at school in a way they haven’t before.
- Signs that they’re anxious or fearful such as a racing heart, heavy breathing, sweating.
- Out of control or dangerous behaviour such as aggression, fighting or expressing a desire to hurt someone.
- Difficulty completing homework and concentrating
- Evidence of self harm
The NHS has many resources available through its children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) for more information on seeking help and what symptoms to look out for. You can also talk to your child’s school if you’re concerned about their behaviour or performance at school.
Supporting mental health in children and young people
Supporting mental health in children and young people is important. Some self-care measures you can adopt to support mental wellbeing in children include:
- Helping them to maintain their physical health through a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise. Spending time eating together as a family and being active together can help them to develop healthy habits as they get older and become more independent.
- Making sure they get free time to play, especially outdoors ensures plenty of fresh air and can help with relaxation.
- Talking to them about their day and helping them to talk through their problems
- Making sure they get enough sleep
- Regularly checking in about school and their relationships to make sure that they’re happy and comfortable.
- Help them to develop interests and hobbies
There are several resources available to help you get help and support to handle mental health issues in young children. The Young Minds charity is well-known and can help parents and children to get the help they need.
You can also find out more about the resources available in the East Berkshire area in this helpful online article.
The Government has pledged to provide additional funds to support mental health in young children. With improved services and quicker support, children will be able to get the help they need, but it’s important that parents do their bit to identify concerns amongst their children too.
Read more about the CAMHS support available to parents and teachers on the NHS Choices web page.