Mental health has never been so high on the public agenda as it is at the moment, with everyone feeling the mental strain that COVID-19 is imposing. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been damaging for the vast majority, the pandemic has increased discussion surrounding mental health and has helped integrate it into everyday conversation and political discourse. Yet, when mental health is discussed, it is always in the context of young adults and adults. Children’s mental health still appears to be fairly low on the agenda with many not considering the possibility of children suffering from mental health problems, something that needs addressing. Children’s Mental Health week (1st – 7th of February 2021) has the crucial aim of raising awareness to the fact that mental health is something that affects children and young people as well as adults. Its purpose is to help encourage increased societal awareness and discussion about how mental health problems do not discriminate against and can impact anyone in society.
Every year, 1 in 10 young people experience a mental health problem with the most common mental health problems affecting children with severe and persistent behavioural problems. These problems are twice as likely to affect boys than girls. In 2015, 22% of young people aged 15 reported having self-harmed. The subject of children’s mental health made the headlines just 5 days ago with the sad news that a 12-year-old boy, Ethan Bourne from London, had committed suicide. It is statistics and news events such as these that highlight how important it is to tackle the mental health problems that children and young people are experiencing in our society. The Coronavirus pandemic has enabled conversations about how children rely on social interactions for their development and happiness and with schools being closed, the situation is not easy for children who are apart from their friends and unable to socialise. However, the exceptional circumstances that this year provides in terms of remote, interactive learning provides the best opportunity for younger children to be made aware of mental health and can participate in effective discussions with their guardians. This dialogue is crucial, as Ethan’s case sadly illustrates that communicating emotions and feelings can save lives.
The theme for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is ‘Express Yourself,’ which is centred around finding ways to express feelings, thoughts and ideas through creativity. By participating in events that ‘Place2Be’ are putting on for this week, it is hoped that guardians and children find ways of communication and methods of effectively dealing with their thoughts, feelings and emotions. Everyone is able to get involved in Children’s Mental Health week, whether this is by spreading the word on social media, making a donation or participating in some planned activities; all of which are free to do! There are also some great free resources online such as information slides, fundraising ideas and a ‘Dress to Express’ event. Some of these resources can be utilised by education providers and integrated into the online learning that is currently taking place.
For more information about Children’s Mental Health week please visit: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/