According to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 9 Children and Young People are suffering with a Mental Health Disorder(2017) It is widely reported following research over a long time that Mental Health issues increase in adolescence.
The Centre for Mental Health estimate 22% of young people aged 15 engage in self harm.
Young Minds found 4.4% of our young people have anxiety and 1.4% are seriously depressed but less than half of our young people diagnosed with Mental Health issues have received appropriate treatment.
The Mental Health Foundation state says
‘The Emotional Well Being of Children is just as important as their physical health. Good Mental Health means children can develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into healthy rounded adults.’
The question is what we can do to support and promote good enough Mental Health and Emotional Well Being in our children and young people?
Having somewhere and someone who is felt to be safe is important to our Mental and Emotional Well Being. This is not a new concept, the idea that children need safety and security was pioneered by John Bowlby in the 1950s. His theory of attachment places a lot of emphasis on the need for human beings to have a Secure Base, i.e. stability and security with their caregivers, (something that we humans have in common with mammals!). This Secure Base is a protective factor for our Emotional Well Being and allows us to develop emotional resilience in order to be able to manage what life throws us at us.
Of course it is not as straightforward as this as many children and young people do have a Secure Base and yet life can become very stressful for them and they may struggle with aspects of their Emotional Well Being particularly during adolescence.
There are neurobiological factors at play during the teenage years, Adoelscent brains undergo huge neurological shifts with parts of the brain shutting down-predominantly the thinking and reasoning part which may explain a lot to parents as to why their teenagers are impulsive and seem to lack reasoning.
There are also the chemical changes within the body that come with puberty but the brain is also experiencing chemical changes. Sometimes this can cause a chemical imbalance that can have an impact on a young person’s Emotional Well Being.
So what else can we do to promote resilience and support our children and young people?
Good physical health,regular exercise and a balanced diet-exercise and diet are now shown to be important to our Emotional Well Being. When we eat well and exercise regularly we feel better!
Having time and freedom to play-both indoors and outdoors-play is important for children of all ages. It helps us to develop emotionally as we learn about collaboration, develop important social skills and feel part of a community.
Regular and enough sleep-we all know that not getting enough sleep is not good for our Emotional Well Being. Children and adolescents need enough good quality sleep to allow them to recharge.
The National Association of School Psychologists suggest that children and young people need to develop self efficacy, they need to learn from their mistakes in order to be able to develop the emotional resilience they need to navigate through.
As parents, carers and other professionals being alongside our children and young people is important. We can support and promote their Emotional Well Being by listening to what they say and communicating back to them what we think they are saying. By supporting them through their mistakes and being curious about how it felt for them children and young people will develop a reflective capacity which will support them with their Mental Health.
Supporting children and young people to access what their communities have to offer, i.e. going to school, college or engaging in work as well as encouraging activities, will enable children and young people to develop their confidence, to explore their worlds and discover different parts of themselves as they grow and develop.
Protective for their Emotional Well Being.