Last week was #TimetoTalk Day. Mental Health Awareness Week is in May. In the autumn it's World Mental Health Day. Last year at school we used #WMHDay as an opportunity to raise money for mental health charities, talk about mental health and run a mindfulness taster session. So with so many mental health awareness campaigns already, do we really need Children's Mental Health Week too?
In my mind yes, we most definitely do. Recently I asked some of the primary school children I teach mindfulness to how they had been using it to help them. Lots of them spoke about using different techniques like 'finger breathing' to help them when they get worried about assessments. Others talked about friendship issues getting them down at break times. Already, before they hit the teenage years, their language is peppered with words like 'stress', 'anxiety' and 'concerns'.
So it's incredibly important to start these conversations with children before they reach secondary school and continue them at key stages 3, 4 and 5 too. Especially as the survey published in conjunction with 'The Big Assembly' indicated that over 60% of 10 and 11 year olds worry 'all the time'. According to the findings the children's top concerns were their family and friends being okay, and not doing well at school. The Mental Health Foundation identify that 10% of 5 - 16 year olds have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. An equally alarming statistic that is also commonly bandied about is that it is estimated that 50 per cent of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14 (some research is now suggesting that this has fallen further to 12 years old) and 75 per cent by the age of 24.
So I welcomed the younger royals' backing of 'children's mental health week' and how they caught the attention of the media with their support for the campaign. On Monday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge teamed up with the charity Place2Be to kick the campaign off with 'The Big Assembly' at a primary school in northwest London and it seemed an entirely appropriate message to be propagated to help wellbeing - be kind.
This year's focus on kindness is spot on. Cultivating kindness is a key principle of mindfulness and there is robust science behind it. Not only does promoting kindness help lower the number of bullying instances in schools, but research shows that kindness can help the 'agent of kindness' feel a natural "Helper's High". As Catherine Roche, Place2Be's Chief Executive commented on the radio earlier in the week, teaching children coping strategies [of which mindfulness is one] will help to ensure that children's problems 'won't grow with them'.
Wouldn't it be lovely to equip the next generation with skills that help to build their resilience and emotional intelligence and stand them in good stead for the future?
This post is a revised version of a post that first appeared on my blog earlier this week.