Children’s Mental Health
Over the last 3 years, the likelihood that a child will experience a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety has increased by 50%.
It is now estimated that 1 in 6 children between the ages of 5-16 may experiencing a mental health condition. And worryingly, 34% of those children that are referred into the NHS services are not accepted for further treatment. (Source: The Children’s Society.)
In recent years, mental health awareness and our knowledge of the signs and symptoms of common conditions such as depression and anxiety has been improving. But the signs and symptoms of mental illness (or compromised mental health) are often missed or go untreated or unsupported in children.
What are we missing?
Often, mental health issues in young people can get missed because they might be unable to describe the way they are feeling, perhaps because they don’t understand the feelings or the emotions they are experiencing, or because they haven’t yet got the vocabulary or communication skills to express it.
Another factor can be that many of the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions might not be seen as being unusual in children – tantrums or problems sleeping for example. The type of symptoms they experience may also vary depending on their age or developmental stage. Childhood is also full of constant changes, so changes in behaviour can sometimes be missed or dismissed.
Other possibilities for why young people don’t always seek help might also include concerns around medication, diagnosis labels and the associated stigma, waiting lists and the cost of treatment.
Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children and Young People
Signs that your child might be experiencing compromised mental health might include:
• Feeling sad for two weeks or more
• Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
• Significant changes in their mood or behaviour
• Angry outbursts or extreme irritability
• Changes in their eating habits (eating more or less than normal)
• Difficulty sleeping
• Frequent headaches or tummy aches
• Difficulty concentrating or focusing
• Refusing to go to school
Of course there are also some more significant signs, which would call for more immediate action:
• Self-harm or talking about self-harm
• Talking about death or suicide
What Can Parents do to Support Children with Their Mental Health?
As a parent, if you notice any of the above signs or symptoms in your child there are several things that you can do to support them:
1. Talk to them
Letting your child or teen know you’ve noticed a change in their behaviour can be a good first step, as well as asking them what help and support they feel they need. As a parent it can be tempting to aim to “fix” the problem for them and sometimes, this can create resistance, so being intentional about giving them the opportunity to express what their needs are can help reduce that. Sometimes, just letting them know you are there to support them as and when they need it can make a big difference on its own, as can sharing that what they are feeling is normal and experienced by people of all ages. You can also encourage your child to find someone they can talk to about how they’re feeling if that feels more comfortable to them – extended family members or close family friends.
2. Be Patient and Monitor the Situation
Mental health issues can take time to resolve, so patience is key. Continue to monitor your child’s behaviour and check in with them every now and then to remind them you’re there and to offer help and support. You can also start to subtly bring in the tools and techniques below to support and encourage positive mental health.
3. Help Them to Create a Good Routine
As adults, we often feel happiest, or at least more in control, when we’re in a routine. As parents we know how important routine is for babies and toddlers, but we often forgot that it’s just as important for our older children and teenagers too. Supporting your child to create a positive routine that includes their morning before school, at school and extracurricular activities, as well as time for rest and relaxation, and a positive night-time routine to support a good night’s sleep, can really help to promote good mental health.
4. Encourage Positive Thought
As solution focused hypnotherapists, we’re always talking about the importance of the seemingly simple question “What’s been good?” That’s because it trains our brain to notice and recall the good things that are going on in our life, rather than leaving it to dwell on the negatives or the problems (which it will comfortably do when given the chance). In order to answer this question, we also have to access our intellectual mind, where our thinking is generally positive, innovative and solution focused, so asking “What’s been good today?” rather than “How was your day?” is a great conversation starter and naturally encourages positive thought. Try asking them when you pick them up from school, around the dinner table or as part of their bedtime routine. And you can share what’s been good about your day too!
5. Encourage Positive Actions
When we do things we enjoy doing, we naturally produce our feel good, happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphins). And when we’ve got a good level of these feel-good hormones in our brain, they combat the cortisol that can lead to compromised mental health, and we feel much better than when we don’t. So, providing the opportunity for your child or teen to engage in hobbies or activities that they enjoy is a great way to support their mental health. This really can be anything they enjoy doing: playing games, being outside, building Lego, reading, arts and crafts, bike rides, swimming, cinema trips, family day trips – the list is endless.
6. Encourage Positive Interactions
This follows on nicely from encouraging positive actions as many of these activities often create the opportunity for spending time with other people. Again, spending time with the people we like, naturally boosts our feel-good, happy hormones. These positive interactions might be with close family, the extended family, friends or even with our much loved family pets. Help your young person to understand the importance of creating social connections (and that healthy interactions make us feel good) and provide them with the opportunities and support to be able to do this.
7. Look After Yourself
It’s easy to put your child’s needs first as a parent but it’s important to make time to look after yourself too. We can’t support others effectively if we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or exhausted ourselves. So, really take the time to look at what help and support you need and make time for those positive actions and interactions that make YOU happy. Our team here at Inspired to Change, often work with parents who feel worried and burnt out, helping them to feel calmer, relaxed and more confident, which in turn has a positive ripple effect on the rest of the family.
8. Ask for Help
Asking for professional support can be a positive action in itself. This might be speaking to child’s teacher or school, contacting mental health support organisations (see a list here), speaking to your GP or looking at private support options such as solution focused hypnotherapy.
Is Hypnotherapy Effective for Children?
Here at Inspired to Change we often work with children and teens who are struggling with feelings of overwhelm, stress, anxiety, anger or depression. And the good news is that the benefits of hypnotherapy for children are the same as for adults!
The tools and techniques we use in solution focused hypnotherapy are great for teaching children how their brain works, how to manage feelings of anxiety and anger and how to look after their mental health as they grow up. Hypnosis is also a powerful tool for boosting a child’s confidence and resilience, empowering them discover and use their natural talents and strengths.
Hypnotherapy can also help children and teenagers to make sense of and cope with school pressures and exams, to adapt to changing emotions and hormones, and better manage social fear and anxieties.
And because we don’t need to dwell on the problems or revisit the past children find their sessions to be a positive and fun experience!
About the Author: Kerry Seymour is based in our North Somerset clinic in Weston-super-Mare and she works with clients online both across the South West and around the UK. Kerry specialises in helping people with Anxiety, OCD , Low Confidence, Chronic Pain and Parental Mental Health and Resilience.
If you’d like to find out how solution focused hypnotherapy could help your child to flourish, why not get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist? Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, County Durham, Devon, Essex, Fife, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk, and Somerset.
Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.
To find out how you can train as a solution focused hypnotherapist click here for our hypnotherapy school information.