THE BLOG

Children's Mental Health Week: Nearly Two In Three Children Feel Worried All The Time

10/02/2017 16:28
Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Stress and worry are a part of every walk of life. No job, no task, is without its stresses and strains. During my time as deputy Prime Minister I would have numerous decisions to juggle which would leave me worrying about whether I was making the right choices or not. Luckily I have an amazing family and close friends who gave me all the support I could wish for. Not everyone is as fortunate.

As an adult having to deal with such pressure is extremely difficult to navigate so I can't imagine what it would be like for a child to feel anxious and stressed all the time. Yet I was surprised to learn this week that nearly two thirds of children say they worry all the time. Accordingly to a new survey published by children's charity Place2Be 63% of children still at primary school say they worry "all the time" about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves.

The charity surveyed over 700 children aged 10 to 11 across 20 primary schools in England, Scotland and Wales, and found that children's top concerns are their family, whether their friends were okay, and not doing well at school. It is an inevitable part of life that children will worry from time to time and that is perfectly normal, but what is shocking is the sheer number of young people who are getting anxious so frequently.

Not tackling the causes of stress can lead to mental health problems. One in four people in the UK will experience some form of mental health difficulty each year, and 75% of mental illness starts by the age of 18. That means if you have an average class of 30 school children, three will have a diagnosable mental illness.

So what can we do to ensure children get the support they need to lead healthy stress free lives? When children were asked by Place2Be what adults can do to help, the majority were clear; 'be kind' and 'listen'.

As we go about our busy lives it can be easy to forget to take time to check in with how your friends and family are doing. But all it takes are small gestures to make a difference, like asking someone how they are or just listening to them about problems in their lives.

One in five children said they often don't know what to do when they're worried and 40% said that their worries get in the way of school work. Schools and families must play a role in making sure children know where to get help and how to look out for each other. The work that charities like Place2Be do is also crucial to ensuring young people get the support they need. They provide emotional and therapeutic services in primary and secondary schools, building children's resilience through talking, creative work and play.

I recently had to write an article reflecting on my time as a young boy and what I would say to myself now if I could. I would tell myself not to worry so much. This is what I encourage my three young boys to do but also to support each other and their friends to be able to live life in this way. The kindness they show to their friends is returned when they have needed it most.

This week is Children's Mental Health Week and Place2Be are encouraging everyone to 'spread a little kindness' to others. When you next see someone who could benefit from support, spare a moment, and show you care. As one of the children who took part in the survey puts it best: "It would be kind if someone came up to me if I was upset because it would make me feel like a somebody."

Nick Clegg is the Lib Dem MP for Sheffield Hallam

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