Children’s Mental Health Week: Five ways to support young people’s wellbeing

Nathalie Richards
Monday, February 1, 2021

It is heart-breaking that one in four 16- to 25-year-olds admit to feeling unable to cope with life since the start of the pandemic – and 40 per cent of those who are not in work, education or training say they are struggling emotionally.

These figures were part of a recent survey conducted by the Prince’s Trust, in which a staggering 50 per cent of all young people felt their mental health had worsened during the current crisis.

As Children’s Mental Health Week takes place during 1 - 7 February, here are five strategies that can help to improve the wellbeing of children and young people:

  1. Build on resilience

Resilience is a key skill that can help every child and young person navigate their way through the difficulties life might throw at them. Encouraging young people to explore activities such as mindfulness, journaling and regular exercise – even in a small way – could help them to develop a valuable toolkit over time that they can call upon to manage the challenges they face now and in the future.

  1. Reduce isolation

At a time when many children and young people are in lockdown and learning remotely, keeping in touch with friends and others they care about can ease pressure and help them to juggle their study and other responsibilities.

Where appropriate, you could consider helping a young person you are working with to set up a video conference call each week with a group of friends or arrange a quick phone chat with them 10 minutes before the school day begins. This could prevent them from feeling isolated and encourage them to get the most from what they are learning, whether they are attending school in person or logging on. A number of schemes are currently in place to provide laptops and other digital devices to children and young people who do not have access to them, so make contact your local council to find out what support is on offer.

  1. Get clarity on wellbeing

There are a range of digital tools and apps that practitioners working with children and young people can use to help uncover wellbeing concerns such as anxiety or self-harm, with some offering quick results.

The timely insight from these tools can help you to encourage a young person to talk about the challenges they are struggling with and ensure the right support is put in place at the right time to make a difference.

  1. Strengthen support for carers 

Online communities such as Mumsnet and Gingerbread can offer carers useful tips and advice, from managing behaviour to home schooling and spotting wellbeing concerns early. Raise awareness of these support channels as they can be a lifeline for carers during lockdown and beyond.

But all adults supporting children need support too, so don’t forget to look after your own wellbeing first. The British Association of Social Work and Institute of Youth Work websites might be a good place to start.

  1. Keep helplines in the minds of young people

Mentioning the help available once is not always enough to keep the message in the minds of the young. Schools and youth support groups can continue to raise awareness of helplines such as Mind or the Samaritans through regular social media activity, targeted communications and link up campaigns throughout the year. This could prevent issues from escalating and might just make all the difference to a vulnerable young person in need. 

Nathalie Richards is chief executive and founder of student wellbeing social enterprise, EduKit. She is offering a free wellbeing survey that can be used to uncover the issues that are impacting on the mental health of young people during lockdown. For more information, contact info@edukit.org.uk

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