THE BLOG

How To Help A Child With A Mental Health Issue

08/05/2017 12:06

As we launch into another mental health awareness week (8th May to 14th May) - this is definitely something many parents will be wondering.

With an estimated 1 in 10 children struggling from mental ill health (Mental Health Foundation), there are an awful lot of parents out there having to support their children on a daily basis.

Especially as many children are living in areas with extremely long waiting lists.

In some parts of the UK, parents are having to wait for a very long time.

While the CQC report stated '90% of children wait no more than 6 weeks to receive support' this only accounts for the children who are 'diagnosed' with having a mental health difficulty.

Getting on the list to be seen and diagnosed is a serious uphill struggle.

I know of families who are turned away time after time because their child does not meet the very strict criteria - this however, does not mean the child is not struggling.

In fact, the Guardian reported '28% of children referred for support in England - including some who had attempted suicide - received no help'.

So, for all you parents out there - knowing how to support your child may just be the difference between their recovery and a further decline in their mental health.

Now, while mental ill health can on some levels very difficult to manage, it is also, a lot easier to support someone than many are lead to believe.

The first step to supporting a child with mental ill health is trust - if your child does not trust that you have their best interests at heart then no matter what you do they will not listen to you and will reject all your offers of support.

You can increase the trust in your relationship by spending time with your child one-on-one and listening to them - without judgement.

Just listen.

The next step to supporting a child with mental ill health is to show them how to move forward by modelling positive mental health practices yourself.

Regardless of our age, we learn by watching and copying others.

If you, as a parent; exercise, eat healthily, meditate, speak positively and have self-care high on your priorities then your children will naturally start to do the same.

This is super important because all of the things listed above increase our resilience (susceptibility) to developing mental health difficulties.

If however, you get in from work, sit in front of the TV, order a takeaway, never exercise and put yourself last - you are setting up your child to do the same.

Our physical health directly affects our mental health.

In fact, 'exercise has been proven as an effective treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD)' (PsycCentral, 2013) and now NICE (2016) recommends that physical exercise be prescribed for individuals who are struggling with depression.

So, what does this mean for you as parents?

Easy - get up, get outside and get your walking boots on!

We are so lucky in the UK to have beautiful places to go for a stroll pretty much everywhere.
To be honest, May is national walking month so there's never been a better time to try it out.

But, it has to be both of you.

You can't just kick your child out.

If you're with them it will help you build the bond and stop them dwelling on things which may be troubling them.

This is really important because the more we tell ourselves something, the more we believe it.

In fact, it's this premise which Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) uses to reverse the effects of mental ill health.

What your child is eating also can have a major impact on their mental health so make sure they're getting a good level of fresh food of all different varieties and colours.

Finally, you have to wait.

You have to wait for them to be ready to truly tackle what's wrong.

You can't push anyone before they're ready because they will simply push back and withdraw from you.

I hope this at least helps you know where to start.

Have a wonderful day and I look forward to catching up with you soon - Katie.

p.s. this year's Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on 'why so few people with mental ill health are thriving'. If your child had a mental illness, whether they're either still struggling or have come out the other end and thriving - I would love to hear what you think has helped or you feel is keeping them stuck.

Your stories, experiences and knowledge is what helps us mental health professionals get better at what we do.

If you would like to share your experiences you can contact me in confidence using katie.woodland@woodlandpsychologicalservices.com

References:
CQC: https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cqc.org.uk%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2F20170121_briefguide-camhs-waitingtimes.pdf
Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/28/nhs-turning-away-children-referred-for-mental-health-help
Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/c/children-and-young-people
NICE: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/1-Guidance
PsychCentral (2013) https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/05/11/new-guidelines-for-using-exercise-as-an-antidepressant/54728.html

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