At the weekend we marked World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme was “mental health for all”, which seemed particularly pertinent with the adverse impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on so many.
People have been cut off from friends and family, lost loved ones, suffered financial stresses and had little reprieve from relationship strains.
At Childline, we have seen the profound impact of this global crisis on the young in our society. Children have been reaching out to the counselling service, in their thousands, worried about their mental well being, fearful for their schooling and anxious for loved ones. It is a lot to contend with, and our young people have had to face anxieties in this pandemic that we wouldn’t have even contemplated as children ourselves.
We know from calls to Childline that young people’s mental health has particularly suffered during the pandemic. Since the start of lockdown, we have had more than 2,000 contacts from children in Scotland where mental and emotional health has been the main concern.
Sadly, many young people have suffered difficult or traumatic experiences over the last few months, while they have been out of school and largely cut off from vital support networks like teachers. Low mood has been the top mental and emotional health issue mentioned by young people – many talked about feeling sad, crying more and feeling generally overwhelmed. Some young people have even described experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, stress, eating problems, self-harming and suicidal thoughts and feelings.
It is so important that children are supported at this time and that schools have the resources to deal with the increased trauma children have faced during lockdown, whether from abuse and neglect or through increased mental health worries.
This week, our schools service together with celebrity duo Ant and Dec launched a new virtual version of the NSPCC’s Speak Out. Stay Safe assembly, in which children are made aware of their rights to be protected from abuse and where to turn if they have any worries.
As a parent or carer, it can be difficult to know how to talk to your child about their mental health, or to recognise the signs that they might be struggling. Signs of depression or anxiety in children can sometimes look like normal behaviour, particularly in teenagers who can keep their feelings to themselves. It can help to think about what’s normal for your child and if you’ve noticed signs that they’ve been behaving differently recently. And it is so important to let our children know that we are there for them and do all we can to help allay their fears and address their anxieties.
For more information and support about supporting your child’s mental well being, please visit the NSPCC website www.nspcc.org.uk