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How to talk about

Mental Health

Mental Health

According to Time2Change 1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem.

That’s three students in the average classroom.

It means it is likely to affect your child in some way – either through friends or directly.

Mental Health problems are more common than you might think.

Take this quiz to see just how much you know before talking to your child.

What are the signs to look out for?

Everyday Health lists some of the signs of mental health by different age ranges.

Preschool/early school years:

  • Behavior problems in preschool or daycare
  • Hyperactivity way beyond what the other kids are doing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Excessive fear, worrying, or crying
  • Extreme disobedience or aggression
  • Lots of temper tantrums all the time
  • Persistent difficulty separating from a parent. Klykylo acknowledges that many children experience separation anxiety at first; there could be a problem if this goes on for months

Primary school:

  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Extreme hyperactivity
  • Sudden decrease in school performance
  • Loss of interest in friends or favorite activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden changes in weight
  • Excessive worry about weight gain
  • Sudden changes in sleep habits
  • Visible prolonged sadness
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there

Teen years:

  • The above signs
  • Destructive behavior, such as damaging property or setting fires
  • Constantly threatening to run away or running away, which can be a precursor to self- harm, says Klykylo
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Comments or writings that suggest a desire to harm himself or others

How do I talk to my child about their mental health?

The charity Mind has this advice:

  • speak with a trusted friend first and decide what you want to say to your child, or talk it through with a support service like the Carers Trust
  • stick with clear and age-appropriate information
  • explain as simply as possible how your mental health affects how you feel and how you behave
  • make regular time to talk to older children about how they are feeling
  • be available to listen if they are having problems or if they just want to talk
  • answer questions as honestly as possible, or find someone else who can answer them instead
  • reassure them that they are not responsible for how you feel – instead, be a team with your children and help each other at different times
  • agree what information about your mental health you feel happy for them to share, and with whom
  • devise a simple way to check in with your child about their stress levels, eg: 'On a scale of 1–10 how relaxed are you feeling? What is one thing that will bring that score closer to 10?'
  • if your child doesn’t feel comfortable discussing their feelings with you, identify a trusted teacher, friend or family member that they can talk to if they feel worried. 

Where can I get help?

  • If your child doesn’t feel comfortable discussing their feelings with you, identify a trusted teacher, friend or family member that they can talk to if they feel worried

  • You can also help by keeping a note of their mental wellbeing, marking each of the earlier symptoms from 1-10 each day of how they appear to feel. This can be handed to the GP or other support service

  • Let their school know they are struggling

    School’s should have a strategy in place to support students’ mental wellbeing. It could be a case of a little more leaniency with workload and deadlines, checking in with the student regularly, offering a sanctuary for them to go if things get too much, or even providing a counselling service

  • ChildLine on 0800 1111 or online here

  • Time2Change has a wealth of information online here

  • Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or online here

  • Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line on 0300 5000 927 or online here

© Produced by Adele Norris in association with Eagle Radio