“Mummy, I’m sad.”

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248’000 children were referred to CAHMS (Child and Adolscent Mental Health Services) in 2015.
1 in 10 children aged 5-16 have mental health problems that require support and treatment.
1 in 12 young people in the UK have self harmed at some point during their lives.
Only 16% of young people would talk to their parents about their mental health problems. 

Mental health is a rising concern for young people. In 2011/12 ChildLine reported that self harm was in the top 5 concerns for 14 year olds, this age had dropped to 13 by 2012/13. YoungMinds reported that only 16% of children would go to their parents to talk about their mental health problems – but why?

In their research YoungMinds reported that the majority of children would go to their friends with concerns related to mental health and self harm. This assumption is that friends would be closer in age to the individual and therefore more likely to empathise with any problems they are having, and also would find it easier to sympathise. On top of this, young people are wise enough to be aware that their parents have their own problems and they do not wish to burden them with more. Young people may also not want to let their parents down with an illness that already appears to be invisible and has negative stigma surrounding it.

However, in their research YoungMinds uncovered that 40% of parents believe that self harm is an attention seeking behaviour. Sadly in this same piece of research, 80% of young people wished that people “didnt think that self harm was attention seeking.”

Furtheremore, there has been a report that has discussed that 67% of parents believe that if their child was to develop a metal health problem then they may never recover from their diagnosis. The sad fact is that mental health is both treatable and manageable, so does this belief come from parent’s having a lack of education on mental health, or just the sad reality that is the mental health services are, to put it bluntly, dire.

Due to their research on parents and their child’s mental health, YoungMind published some advice for parents, to help communicate with their children about their mental health problems:
1. Try not to judge; mental health can occur in anyone, and the stigma surrounding it does not need anymore negative judgement. The child will be feeling ill enough, without their parents judging them for something that they cannot help
2. Be honest; If you don’t understand their diagnosis or behaviour, tell them, ask questions, let them educate you on their situation. It will help create an honest and open environment and help extend the conversation.
3. Accept that recovery is a process; Your child has come to you for help, they cannot get better overnight. Mental health should be treated equally to physical health – you wouldn’t expect their broken leg to heal overnight, so don’t expect their mind to either.
4. Listen; Sometimes people just need to be listened to without comment and judgement – accept your child’s worries and thoughts as legitimate and something that is causing them problems.
5. Talk about other things too; their mental health is not their entire story or personality. Don’t make their mental health the only thing that you talk about, or the centre of every conversation – don’t let their mental health change your relationship. You can still have fun, tell them off, tell them to clean their room and eat their vegetables; their mental health doesn’t change the fact that you’re the parent and they are the child, and they won’t want to talk about it all the time anyway, just be there when they do.

The overall truth is that parents are not the people that their children go to with their mental health problems, however with support and education this statistic can change and parents can be their for their children when they graze their knee, break their arm, or need mental health support and treat it and react to it all the same.

 

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