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World Mental Health Day: Talking to Young People about Mental Health

2022-05-11T11:19:26+01:00

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For World Mental Health Day 2022, we have compiled our best resources on mental health, along with some top tips for talking to young people about mental health. This year’s theme is “Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority”.

Although not as taboo a subject as it once was, mental health can still be a tough topic to tackle and one many people struggle to bring up in conversation or choose to avoid it altogether. However, it’s important we continue to challenge the stigma around talking about mental health so that the young people in your care feel confident, safe, and assured that they can come and talk to you.

With our top tips on talking to young people about mental health, we hope you’ll begin to break the silence and create conversation on everything from the everyday emotional experiences through to mental health problems like anxiety, exam stress, and mental health crises. Talking together can also help combat any sense of loneliness, something many young people have reported feeling over the past few years.

globe with mental health ribbon wrapped around it saying 'world mental health day'
95% of young people feel lonely but only 35% feel confident talking about loneliness

To help normalise talking about mental health, we’ve included links to some of our digital mental health resources that will aid you in approaching the subject and giving the important time needed to think about and acknowledge our emotions and feelings. So, for this year’s World Mental Health Day, we encourage you to sit down with the young person in your care and get talking!

An NHS report revealed that a record number of more than 400,000 children a month are being treated for mental health problems.

Source: Digital NHS

Top Tips for Talking about Mental Health

Remember things have changed!

These days, talking about mental health is more normalised for young people; from YouTubers and social media influencers talking about their own struggles with mental health issues, to mental health and wellbeing being taught as part of the curriculum across U.K. schools. In other words, it might feel more awkward for you to talk to young people about mental health than it does for them!

Choose your moment

One of the first factors to consider when engaging in a difficult topic is choosing your timing. Finding a moment in which they feel open to talking is key – don’t pick a time in which they might feel rushed, ‘on the spot’ or distracted. It may feel logical to ask a young person to come sit on the sofa or at the dining room table, but this could create an atmosphere of intensity – or, even worse, like they’re in trouble! Instead, try to open a conversation when you’re in a more casual setting and with perhaps less intense eye contact! For example, when on a walk, out for dinner or in the car.

Use open-ended questions

Ask open questions, i.e., questions that don’t have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Open questions allow space for the person answering to talk, rather than just give a short response that could ‘kill’ the conversation. It gives them the chance to air any problems, worries or stresses they have.

Some examples of questions you could use:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about?
  • Is there anything worrying you?
  • Can you tell me 3 things that make you happy?
  • Tell me about your friends. What do you like to do together?

Listen actively

This means listening beyond what is simply being said. It involves being aware of what the meaning and intention is behind the words. Pay attention to the body language of the young person you’re speaking to whilst also making sure your body language shows you’re present and listening. After they’ve finished saying something, paraphrase it back to them to show you heard and understood. Your response is important – be empathetic and let them know you hear them.

Some examples of responses you can use:

  • You’re feeling stressed because of pressure from school. That must be very difficult to deal with. Can I do anything that would help you?
  • It’s understandable that you’re feeling this way. This is a lot to try and handle – but you’re not alone. Let’s figure this out together.
  • Thank you for sharing that with me. I know how much this can hurt, and I just want to remind you that I am here for you and I love you.

Knowledge is power

By educating yourself on mental health, you’ll feel more confident in conversing on the topic, which will in turn be reassuring to the child or young person you’re talking to. What better day to take the time to learn about mental health than World Mental Health Day! As well as reading our articles and resources below, keep an eye on our Online Safety’s ‘Mental Health’ section for upcoming articles and releases.

Emotionally and mentally prepare

When you’re talking to a child or young person about mental health or any difficult subject, whether that’s mental health issues, bullying, relationships and sex education etc., it is important to remember it only works well when it’s a two-way conversation. You want them to feel like they can be open and honest – that means you might hear things you weren’t prepared to hear, or even things you don’t like. It’s extremely important that you don’t overreact, panic or react negatively, otherwise they will likely feel discouraged to engage with you on that topic or similarly difficult subjects again.

Know your strengths and limitations

Know where and when to seek further support if you feel overwhelmed or underequipped or just need further assurance on what to do or say. See our Further Support section below for suggested support and advice organisations and charities.

Mental health isn’t always a crisis!

Although often correlated, talking about mental health doesn’t always mean there’s something very wrong, the same way the term ‘physical health’ doesn’t immediately imply there’s an illness or other health problem. Having an open dialogue about emotions provides a healthy avenue for a young person to express what they’re feeling – good or bad.

Not everyone’s a talker

For some children and young people, talking about mental health won’t be the best option. Many people prefer to express their feelings through other means, such as by writing in a journal, artistic activities like painting, drawing or writing poetry etc. You’ll find some examples of alternative options for expression in our resources below, such as our Emotions Journal.

A survey found that between the start of the academic year and February 2022, mental health problems in pupils had increased, including depression (76%), constant feelings of anger (68%) and low self-esteem (86%).

Source: Place2Be

Young boy sat on he floor with his head in his arms

Mental Health Resources

Read

The Impact of Self-Help Apps on Children and Young People

read

Influencers & Eating Disorders – Measuring the Influence

read

Eating Disorders and the Impact of Social Media

Read

Self-Harm and Peer Support

read

5 Ways Young People Can Cope With Stress

read

Talking to Young People about Suicide

Download

What Are Your Words Worth

Sometimes, our words can make someone else (or even ourselves) feel lonelier. This activity pack will help prompt young people to think about the words they use online. It will allow them to reflect on comments they make on social media or gaming platforms and consider how their words may impact others. There is also a challenge to spread more #PositivePosts across the social channels they use.

Download

Gratitude Journal

A great way to combat the insecurity that loneliness can often make young people feel is by taking stock of the things we are grateful for. This gratitude journal will encourage young people to do just that, helping them to develop a more positive mindset.

Download

Emotions Journal

This journal has been designed to build the emotional intelligence and resilience of young people, offering them the opportunity to reflect and process their emotions. Keeping emotions to ourselves can be harmful, and the Emotions Journal provides a healthy way to express these feelings.

Further Support

It’s important to ensure those in your care feel empowered to take action when they need to most. Make sure to teach children and young people how to block and report users. You can find instructions on how to do this and also apply safety and privacy settings for all major social media platforms at Our Safety Centre.

GOV.UK – Making a complaint about bullying

NSPCC – Bullying and Cyberbullying

Internet Matters – Cyberbullying

Anti-Bullying Alliance – Advice for Parents

Bullying UK (Family Lives) – Advice for Parents

DFE – Advice for Parents and Carers on Cyberbullying

Kidscape – Advice for Parents and Carers

Parents/Carers and Safeguarding Professionals can use the NSPCCs child protection helpline for help, advice, and guidance. 

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