We all have times when we have to “Find our Brave”. This is the theme of Children’s Mental Health Week which is taking place (3rd to 9th February 2020) in the United Kingdom. The awareness week is now its sixth year and its purpose is to highlight the importance of good mental health in children and young people.
The week was created by the mental health charity Place2Be and has a different theme every year. This year theme is “Find your Brave”, which encourages children and young people to take small brave steps every day these might which include:
- Asking for help when it is needed
- Trying something completely new
- Sharing worries
It could also encourage children to speak out about something as serious as sexual abuse.
Schools are especially active in raising awareness of the week; however, everyone can get involved.
Children’s Mental Health
Research has shown that every 1 in 10 primary school children (aged between 5 to 10 years old) has an identifiable mental health problem. This is equivalent to around 3 children in every primary school class. At this age, it is also twice as likely for a boy to have mental health problems than a girl.
For secondary school children (aged between 11 to 16), 1 in 7 pupils has an identifiable mental health problem.
Children’s mental health can be affected by a number of different influences that they may encounter in their lives. Some of these influences can put a child at risk of developing a mental health condition. Some of these risks include:
- Being exposed to traumatic experiences like domestic violence or abuse
- Changes in their home environment, for example if their parents divorce
- Bereavement of a close family member
Whilst a child may be exposed to these risks, not all children will go on to establish a mental health problem. Each child has a different personality and will therefore react differently to each situation they encounter.
It has also been discovered than more than half of all mental health problems are established by the time a child turns 14. Therefore, it is important that each child is properly supported from a young age to help reduce the chance of them developing a mental health problem. In order to offer this support, it is important for the adults in children’s lives to be able to spot the signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health.
How Schools can support Children’s Mental Health
As awareness around Children’s Mental Health increases, it is becoming increasingly important for schools provide support for their pupils. This includes supporting those who are suffering with a mental health condition (and those at risk) and also providing the necessary education to enable children to develop the skills to manage their own mental health.
Many schools provide lessons which teach personal, social, health and economic education - often shortened to PSHE lessons. Some of the subjects covered in the PSHE lessons are ‘Health and Wellbeing’; ‘Relationships’ and ‘Living in the Wider World: economic wellbeing and being a responsible citizen’. The PSHE lessons also help children to manage their thoughts and feelings and understand positive relationships and behaviours. While many of schools have PSHE as a stand-alone class, it is important that the subjects covered are interwoven into all different subjects, in order to cement the importance of the lessons to the children. Good social and economic skills can help children to avoid mental health problems in the future and allow them to deal with negative experiences effectively.
It is important that school do get involved in supporting children’s mental health as, for many children, schools are the place where they spend the majority of their time. This means that staff have a large input in children’s lives and so should be in the best position to spot any signs of a child who is struggling with their mental health.
It is perhaps coincidental that Children’s Mental Health Week coincides with Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week with the strapline #itsnotok.
It is commonly recognised that sexual abuse can cause significant mental health problems both in childhood and adult life. It is hoped that awareness of the prevalence of both childhood sexual abuse and childhood mental health problems will be preventative so that fewer of our children suffer.