Today is the 10th October – World Mental Health Day.
This year’s focus is ‘young people and mental health in a changing world’.
According to the World Health Organisation:
Half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14.
And the vast majority of young people suffering with a mental illness around the world suffer in silence; lacking support – their conditions often going undiagnosed and untreated.
Fortunately, in more recent years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of building mental resilience in young people to help to try and combat this ‘mental health pandemic’. As the WHO website explains:
“Evidence is growing that promoting and protecting adolescent health brings benefits not just to adolescents’ health, both in the short- and the long-term, but also to economies and society, with healthy young adults able to make greater contributions to the workforce, their families and communities and society as a whole.”
So what can parents and teachers do to help young people build ‘grit’ to better cope with everyday challenges?
There is lots that can be done – I’ve posted previously about encouraging a growth mindset at home and in school.
But if we can model and also encourage the following ‘5 ways to well-being’ than this would be extremely beneficial too.
Just as we encourage the younger generation to make wise choices to look after their physical health – eat a balanced and nutritious diet and get regular exercise, we would do well to encourage them to make wise choices about looking after their mental health too.
Lots of evidence suggests that feeling connected with other humans (and to some extent living creatures – pets for instance) helps emotional resilience.
So (within the realms of what your child feels comfortable with) encourage the tween or teen to have meaningful and real relationships with other people.
Remind them to:
- Make eye contact.
- Chat face-to-face with people not just online or over social media. Too often, especially for teenagers, virtual relationships are taking up much headspace.
- What about phoning a friend rather than ‘whatsapping’ or ‘snapchatting’? Model this. Let them hear you chatting on the phone to friends and family.
Even if your tween or teen doesn’t want to be at the centre of the school or university football or hockey team then it is important they still engage in some physical exercise; not just for their physical health but for their mental health too. Endorphins are released; it generally means that they get outdoors and in nature to ‘blow the cobwebs away’ too.
Encourage meet-ups in the park- even as the children get older. They may not want to be on the swings so much (although you never know!) but they may want:
- a kick-around with a football
- to play table tennis,
- a game of rounders (who didn’t used to love playing rounders in a big group when we were younger)
- to play French cricket
- or badminton.
- They may also feel inclined to do a Park Run.
Competition doesn’t have to come into any of this – it’s just about having fun and getting the endorphins going.
By using our senses – the eyes, ears, hands and feet to touch, taste buds and nose we can be much more present, and practiced regularly, this could really help a young person to feel FOMO less and be more appreciative of what’s around them.
Evidence suggests that a mind tuned to being curious and engaged in learning is a healthy one.
This doesn’t mean pushing more academic studies on our youngsters it means encouraging the love of learning through:
- anything really that they have a genuine interest in!
Giving a little (or a lot!)
Recent psychological studies suggest that people who give something to others regularly are happier.
Maybe encouraging children close to you to:
- make a small charitable donation
- voluteer to help at the local library or some other community hub
- support Amnesty or another humaitarian group
- help out at the school fete
- give smiles away
- engage in random acts of kindness.
The ‘5 Ways to Well-being’ are becoming increasingly encouraged in schools and by clinicians.
What do you think?