“We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected.”
Young People, Well-being and Good Mental Health
As Church, our hope is that all children and young people will grow up in a world free from harm, with adults around them who will look after and care for them, allowing them to grow and reach their full potential.
However, we know that mental health problems affect 1 in 10 children and young people.
For our church communities this means children and young people in our partnerships/parish communities/youth groups and schools will experience mental health problems.
The emotional health of our children and young people is as important as good physical and spiritual health.
Good mental health allows our children and young people to develop into resilient members of society who can cope with what life throws at them.
Mental health problems our children and young people are experiencing include:
- Depression (more common in teenagers than young children)
- Anxiety (can cause extreme worry)
- Suicidal thoughts (suicide is the leading cause of young deaths in the UK)
- Self-harm (very common problem with young people, they may not wish to take their own life)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (this can follow physical or sexual abuse, witnessing something extremely frightening or traumatising, being the victim of violence or severe bullying or surviving a disaster)
- Eating disorders (usually more prevalent in teenage years)
and many more, including other issues such as: bullying, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, loneliness, bereavement, coping with change, family divorce/separation, embarrassment, friendship issues, drugs/alcohol use, family finance issues causing worry, exam issues
Mostly, things that happen to children don’t lead to mental health problems on their own, but traumatic life events can trigger problems for children and young people who may already be vulnerable.
Dealing with it
The most important skills working with children and young people are:
- Listen and take notice
- Be prepared to talk about it and
- Let their story emerge
Listen and take notice: listen to what they are saying, be available in the moment. Listen, hear, understand and value what is being said. Take their feelings seriously. Try not to give advice.
Be prepared to talk about it: mental health problems are best shared. Children and young people have worries, fears and anxieties about many things, some we may not fully understand, however, it will be very real to them.
Let their story emerge: make no judgement, reflect back so you know you have understood clearly what the child or young person is saying and show interest and where necessary concern.
Things to be aware of:
(these issues do not mean every child will have a mental health problem, however, may present risk factors if the child/young person is already feeling vulnerable or in a vulnerable position)
- Any child/young person who has a long term physical illness
- Any child/young person who has a parent with mental health problems, problems with alcohol etc
- Experienced a recent bereavement of someone close
- Having parents who are separated or divorced
- A child/young person who may have been severely bullied or physically/sexually abused
- Living in poverty or at risk of homelessness
- Experiencing discrimination due to race, sexuality or religion
- Struggling with their sexual identity
- Acting as a carer for a relative, taking on adult responsibilities
- Having educational difficulties
How can we help
Often, children and young people’s negative feelings usually pass. However, if you notice a child or young person has been distressed with the same issues for some time and this is stopping them getting on with their lives sign posting may be necessary. (see our support and sign posting section below)
Support & Sign Posting
- Know your limitations
- Listen carefully
- Where it is safe to do so, inform the child/young person’s parent/guardian
- Where necessary follow safeguarding policy
- Recommend a visit to the GP for professional help/support
- Consider training in basic counselling skills/listening skills for key members of staff/volunteers
(immediate support/telephone access – useful information and resources)
(useful information and resources)
(particular resources on bullying)
(particular resources support/telephone access for anyone who is talking of suicide)
The Road Centre
(local organisation in Chester le Street who can organise training, access to counselling services or signpost as appropriate)
(leading, national mental health charity)