I am not sure whether the pace of life and its challenges are growing in the 21st Century or I am simply losing my energy to deal with them at times. Basking in the sunshine on the beach hut decking and cooking eggs for my breakfast bap on the shingle seems a long time ago. It is these sorts of times though, the times when we can completely relax and take stock of our lives, that are so important for our mental health.
These days mental health is being talked and written about more in the media, and discussed with families, friends and colleagues, than ever before. The more we talk about mental health, the more we can understand how the issues around it affects us and those around us.
Yet sadly there is still a stigma around mental health and it is still not treated with the same parity as physical health, despite it being just as important. It is vital that, both as organisations, individuals and as a wider community, we do all we can to end the stigma of mental illness. The more we can encourage people to understand the issues around it, the more we can dispel the stigma associated with it. People need to understand that mental health can affect everyone in both a positive and negative way and it does so for each person differently. Often the stigma around mental illness is caused by a lack of understanding, so sharing facts around mental health can play a key part in improving knowledge and reducing the stigma surrounding it.
By knowing some of the signs of mental illness, we will be able to spot when children, friends or colleagues may be experiencing problems. Getting the help needed as quickly as possible can stop issues escalating and potentially save lives. Particular signs to look out for include:
- Looking anxious or worried
- Having emotional outbursts
- Complaining of sleep problems
- Suddenly changing their behaviour
- Unusually quiet or withdrawn
Major surveys of the mental health of children and young people in England were carried out in 1999, 2004, and 2017. While many surveys use brief tools to screen for nonspecific psychiatric distress or dissatisfaction, this series applied rigorous, detailed and consistent methods to assess for a range of different types of disorder. The “Mental Health of Children and Young People” (NHS, 2017) suggests the following findings from the research:
- One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental health disorder when assessed in 2017.
- Among 2 to 4 year olds, boys were more likely than girls to have a disorder.
- Among 5 to 10 year olds, boys were about twice as likely as girls to have a disorder.
- Among 11 to 16 year olds, boys and girls were equally likely to have a disorder.
As a school community we must be prepared to recognise and accept mental health issues in our children, whether they are linked to depression, anxiety or any other aspect. What has brought on this recent focus? Some might say that we are simply more aware of conditions today whereas others may blame the rise in digital use and social media, in particular, for the growing figures. One thing is certain – at Yateley Manor we are committed to providing the very best support for children and we will not shy away from difficult themes such as mental health. We are, after all, preparing them for successful adult lives.