Most children grow up mentally healthy, but many surveys suggest that more children and young people have mental health issues now than they did 30 years ago. Many theories are put forward as to why this should be, but it seems that this could well be because of changes in the way we live now and how that affects growing up.
Children and young people can experience a wide range of mental health problems. As a society, we must never stop learning about children and young people’s mental health and how we can facilitate optimum mental health at times of great pressure and change for all individuals.
Childhood and teenage years are times of rapid change and development. There are many different situations and unfamiliar challenges like exams, relationships, puberty and other pressures of growing up.
While often it is possible for young people to talk to parents or carers about feelings, not all are able to do this. Problems might be expressed through being moody, getting in trouble, with more wildly fluctuating moods or behaviour – or by becoming angry easily. Some also get indistinct aches and pains that may happen if communication through talking is difficult.Sometimes, emotions or mood may be so extreme or upsetting that more urgent urgent help is needed. Self-harming, running away, or saying that he or she no longer wants to go on living requires immediate support.
It is well documented that better mental health starts with good communication with others who care. For a child or young person, taking the plunge, and summoning the courage to talk about something deeply personal and troubling – needing support, understanding and encouragement.
As adults, we can find it difficult to confront these challenges for ourselves. We fear the reactions of colleagues, friends and family – but for younger individuals, inexperienced in dealing with difficulties and maybe seeking help, these worries can seem insurmountable. The taunts, judgements and potential bullying of the playground or classroom can prevent cries for help. Meanwhile, the often-unmoderated social media offer dangers and benefits in equal amounts. Specific digital risks such as cyber-bullying, pornography and radicalisation can also be found by curious young people.
Perhaps you would like to learn more about helping young people. Maybe your job brings you into contact with children and adolescents who are facing challenges in their lives. The Academy for Distance Learning offers a number of online courses addressing mental health which provide you with essential resources for great communication with children and adolescents.