Today is World Mental Health day and this year’s focus is on children and young people. There has been much in the media recently around the rise in reporting of incidence of mental health in our children and young people along with the lack of current resources to meet these demands. We have moved through the generations from millennials to generation X and now generation Z.
It is a step forward that our children and young people are more aware and open to discussing their mental health however, stats are concerning with half of all mental ill health beginning by the age of 14 and suicide being the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29 years old (WHO 2018).
The pressures of key milestones in lives; adolescence, exam pressures, university, starting work and the journey to living an independent life can all be viewed as key factors. The way our children interrelate in society is also very different with much more digital contact. Pressures are then exacerbated by issues such as cyber-crime, bullying, loneliness, isolation, body image, gaming addictions and alcohol /substance misuse.
Prevention is key to addressing mental ill health and it is imperative that this is engaged with during the formative years of childhood and adolescence. Supporting children and young people in teaching skills to navigate life and manage life stressors gives them tools to support and enhance their mental health and overall well-being. We all must take a role in this as parents, educators, employers, mentors / role models and as part of the wider community.
Being advocates for young people with regard to accessing health care is key – understanding where to go and what is best practice can be a minefield. The National Institute of HealthCare and Excellence (NICE) www.nice.org.uk provide guidance on what is the best treatment for a range of conditions in general and for children and young people. They provide good brief overviews for the public to help them understand what to expect and ask for from their local NHS services.
Supporting a child with mental ill health is stressful and distressing and can impact upon parents own mental health. Employers can support by encouraging employees to access their Employee Assistance Programme for advice and guidance on how to support their child along with any support they may need as individuals.
Early identification and intervention are important in addressing and supporting all mental health and if we wish to address the mental health of our future generations then we need to start doing this during childhood and adolescence. It is promising that the UK government now has this on its agenda, however I believe that what will make the difference to addressing this in a meaningful way is for all of us to take the time to support those around us.
I had the privilege of attending MadWorld UK yesterday which was refreshing and encouraging to be in a venue with so many people committed to mental health. The key messages reinforced to me were around prevention, early identification and engagement – and this just brings home the benefits of investing in younger members of our community if we are going to work on reducing the incidence of mental ill health in the future.
The second reassuring consensus from Mad World was that employers need to acknowledge and address mental health in the workplace, supporting employees at preventative, early identification and treatment stages.
It is positive that we are taking great strides in addressing the stigma of mental health however we do still have a long way to go which includes cultural changes, language and training in practical tools to start talking more openly about mental health and be comfortable and confident in doing so.
Finally, whilst I fully support key calendar advents promoting Mental Health I’d like to end with a reminder that we all have mental health which we experience every day of our lives so a huge thank you to all those raising the profile on this day – but let’s keep this going.
How often do we ask ‘how are you?’ When we meet people we may never expect or factor in the time for someone to say well actually I am struggling at the moment, it’s been tough…
Take the time to talk to your children, family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours and ask ‘how are you’, and then.. ‘really – how are you?’…….
#end the stigma #this is me #world mental health day # madworld # mental health we’re in this together
Jane Muston, Clinical Director, Mental Health
RN(MH) PGDip , PGcap BSC(Hons), BABCP accredited Practitioner, Trainer and Supervisor