Most families in the South West have experienced upheaval in their daily lives during the pandemic. With children and young people now back at school or college, PHE’s new campaign provides NHS-endorsed tips and advice to help parents and carers to look after their children and young people’s mental wellbeing.
The advice comes as children and young people report higher levels of stress and anxiety than the general adult population, with COVID-19 increasing a number of risk factors for poor mental health in this group. The impact of school closures in the South West, limited social contact with friends and family and no access to leisure activities were identified as key reasons.
A household survey reported that the three feelings children and young people said they most experienced during lockdown were boredom (51%), worry (28%) and feeling trapped (26%), with nearly 1 in 5 saying they were unhappy during this period.
New PHE data from the South West reveals that over two thirds of parents surveyed say their children’s behaviour has changed since the start of the pandemic (72%), and when asked their top three worries around coronavirus, over half (54%) said the mental wellbeing of their children topped the list of their biggest worries. As we adapt to a new normal many parents and carers anticipate their children will experience new stresses. This includes facing the challenges of catching up with missed education, starting new schools or colleges and building relationships with friends again.
Over a quarter of parents surveyed in the South West say that not knowing what action they can take to support their children’s mental wellbeing has prevented them supporting (27%) and more than a third (41%) want more advice on how to support their mental wellbeing when returning to school.
The advice available on the Every Mind Matters website has been developed in partnership with leading children and young people’s mental health charities, including Young Minds, The Mix, The Place 2 Be and The Anna Freud Centre. It is designed to help parents and carers spot the signs that children may be struggling with their mental health, and empowers them with tips and advice to support their children’s mental wellbeing. In addition to the advice for parents and carers the site also provides tools to help young people build resilience and equips them to look after their mental wellbeing.
To engage parents and carers a powerful short film has been created featuring a range of celebrity parents including Davina McCall, Marvin Humes, Sean Fletcher, Katie Piper and Edith Bowman, reading extracts from best-selling author Charlie Mackesy’s well-known book, ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’. The emotive extracts all touch upon mental health and aim to encourage parents to visit the Every Mind Matters website.
NHS’s Top 5 Tips for supporting children and young people’s mental wellbeing as they go back out into the world (please view all tips on the Every Mind Matters website)
– Be there to listen: Ask the children and young people you look after how they are doing regularly so they get used to speaking about their feelings
– Stay involved in their life: Try to know something about all parts of your child’s or young person’s life
– Support positive routines: Be a positive role model and support positive behaviours including regular bedtime routines, healthy eating and getting exercise
– Encourage their interests: Children and young people are often drawn to particular interests, so support them in exploring them
– Take what they say seriously: help the children and young people you look after feel valued in what they say
The website also encourages parents to complete a personal ‘Mind Plan’, a quick and free interactive tool offering adults tailored mental wellbeing advice. More than 2.4 million ‘Mind Plans’ have been completed since launch in October.
Jan Bond Health and Wellbeing programme lead for Mental Health in children and young people at Public Health England South West said:
“The corona virus pandemic has been very hard on children and young people. Now children are returning to school, after the extended absence as a result of the national lockdown, this could be both exciting and extremely stressful for children and young people, resulting in raised anxiety.
We are encouraging young people to speak up and ask for help if they are struggling with stress and anxiety. Parents and carers play a really important role when prepared to listen, be open and respond with understanding when any child or young person asks for help.
The Every Mind Matters campaign should give both children and young people; and parents and carers the tools and confidence to respond about any worries they may have during this time of change and uncertainty.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director and Director of Health Protection at Public Health England said: “Parents’ and carers’ relationships with their children are special and we want to give them the support they need. Being there to listen and encouraging them to explain how they feel can make a real difference to how children and young people cope with life’s challenges. It can also help them develop effective skills to cope with their emotions.”
Minister for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries, said: “The effects of the pandemic on children and young people’s mental health have been challenging and it is vital we continue to do all we can to protect them and prevent long-term effects.
“Young people should feel encouraged to speak up, look out for each other, and ask for help. This campaign and these resources are a great way to access support and help parents to understand steps they can take to care even more for their children’s mental health and wellbeing.”
Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England Associate National Clinical Director for Children and Young People’s Mental Health, said: “As young people go back to class, it’s understandable that while many will be excited to get back, some may also have concerns and anxieties about the new academic year, following the uncertainty and upheaval of Covid, which is why this important campaign is offering practical tips to help kids cope.
“Parents, carers, teachers and students should also be reassured that the NHS has been and will continue to be there for everyone with concerns about their mental health, whether through 24/7 crisis support lines, video and phone consultations, or face to face appointments.”
TV presenter Davina McCall said: “Children have missed out on so much during lockdown and like lots of other parents, I’ve wanted to support mine as much as I possibly can. As we’re starting to go back to normality and there’s still lots of uncertainty for our kids, it’s important we’re there for them through their ups and downs – communication is so important. For anyone that’s concerned or worried, or just want some tips on how to support them, please search Every Mind Matters.”
The new Better Health – Every Mind Matters campaign will be supported through social media, radio and press activity, helping to reach audiences including parents and carers of children and young people (aged 5-18) and young people (aged 13-18).
Search Every Mind Matters for expert tips and advice to support children and young people with their mental wellbeing, or for more information, visit https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
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