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Children's Mental Health Week. A chat with my 12 year old son.

Children's mental health should be at the forefront of our minds every week but it is still a gratefully received opportunity to put a spotlight on this pressing issue.

It is no secret that our nations children are struggling. Having been through more in their young lives over the last few years than many previous generations, it is no wonder.

According to a national report published by The Commission For Young Lives in July 2022, there is a profound crisis in children and young people’s mental health in the UK, illustrating one in six children aged 6 to 16 being identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017. Boys aged 6 to 10 are more likely to have a mental problem than girls, but in 17 to 19-year-olds this pattern reverses, with rates higher in young women than young men. Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are overwhelmed and the NHS is past its breaking point.


Quite often during this week we will read many interviews, see social media posts and reports from adults about children's mental health, so I felt it was important to discuss the subject with my 12 year old son and start with the question...


What is it that you need from us as adults to help your mental health and wellbeing?

' Adults could look at things from our point of view. If someone is struggling and teachers say come back in from break time to finish your work, I think what kids are really trying to say is that they need a bit more help, not to lose their play time.'


What could grown ups do better to help you?

'Sometimes grown-ups think they're more important and don't listen. Sometimes because we're younger we don't really get our point of view across as much because they kind of block us out. That can be annoying because sometimes we have something to say and when no-one listens it's like we don't matter. That can make me feel angry sometimes.'



What is difficult about being 12?

'I don't think anything is specifically hard just because I'm 12, but lots of things are hard anyway because thats how life works. It's not going to be easy the whole time. I don't think anything gets less or more hard the older you get, other than coping with things.'


How do you cope with difficult days?

'Talking to my friends helps and playing with them online helps. Probably more for boys but if I've had a bad day, talking to my friends makes me a bit happier because I get to spend time with them so that helps alot. Also doing nice things for other people, if you make someone else feel happy when you're sad you can make yourself feel a bit happier. Like I've spent money on my friends before, we share sweets and stuff or I gift them something online that I've saved up.'


What advice would you give someone young that was having a really bad day and feeling really down?

'For me it helps to talk to someone about it, friends and family and whoever I feel comfortable with. It's easier sometimes to talk to someone your own age because they understand, sometimes more than teachers. It's knowing that tomorrow will probably be better, it's not going to last forever and you're not going to feel down forever. Try and get through a day when you're feeling down by doing stuff that makes you feel happy, then you'll start to feel less down and the next day you'll probably feel fine again. That helps me usually.'


What helps you feel good?

'Being outside playing games with your friends is good for mental health, playing sport with your friends. It can get competitive but I still think its good for bonding and things. Getting to know your friends a bit more, some peoples emotions show through more on the sports pitch, people shout, cry, it doesn't really matter out there. We have fun together as a team and that helps alot. Friends are probably one of the most important things. Gaming online with friends is important as there are things to laugh about and be happy, co-operate and work as a team, do something together instead of just talking. I think computers aren't all bad. I mean I understand you can't do it all the time as that's not the best but in my opinion I think it really does help playing with your friends'


If you ask adults to do one thing better to help children's mental health and wellbeing, what would that be?

'Listen.'


Author: Summer Bradshaw MSc Positive Psychology Practitioner & Coach


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Issue 5 ~  Autumn '22
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