Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is mental health awareness week, so for this week’s blog Sarah takes a look at why it is so important that we consider the mental health of young people.

I think many people don’t realise how much mental health can impact on young people how, even in a person’s early years, poor mental health can have a huge impact on someone’s development- be it socially, emotionally or academically. But with 850,000 children in the UK with a mental health problem (that’s an estimated 3 children in every classroom having a diagnosed condition,) we really can’t afford to ignore these significant statistics.

When we have good mental health, it’s an easy thing to take for granted, but it’s impossible to ignore when you start noticing that things aren’t quite right. Good mental health allows a person to sustain satisfying relationships, to continue their psychological development, develop a moral sense of right and wrong, cope with a degree of distress and establish a sense of self-worth.

In many ways, young people are under more pressure growing up in today’s society than ever before. Often children are under pressure from family, friends, peer groups, school and the media. It’s inevitable that at some point all of us will feel upset or distressed, but while most children will cope well with the support of those around them, others will experience challenges and difficulties which might have a huge impact on their mental health.

Whilst some people may look at emotional difficulties as a part of growing up, it is crucial that we help young people to identify when they are experiencing mental health problems and enable them to differentiate this from a healthy dose of a less pleasant emotion. Everyone feels sad every now and again, and whilst a huge number of people have at some point used the phrase ‘I’m so depressed!’ it doesn’t necessarily mean that they were mentally ill at that point.

Ultimately the longer people go without having identified mental health problems, the harder they can be to treat. Equally, it’s during our childhood and teenage years that mental health patterns can be set for the future , so ultimately, a young person who has experienced poor mental health is significantly more likely to experience poor mental health as an adult. By promoting good mental health among young people and encouraging early interventions in terms of support we not only improve life for that young person (allowing them to enjoy life, enjoy their experiences and do better in school), but also potentially save the NHS, criminal justice systems and social care system significant funds down the line.

Mental health conditions are never the fault of the individual, yet shame is essentially an added burden people give themselves, perhaps because sadly so much stigma still surrounds mental health issues.

This is why we need to work together to help the thousands of children affected by mental health issues, encourage active discussions about mental health and encourage those who need it to come forward without shame and ask for the help we need. It’s a big goal, and it truly requires people to work together to help put an end to stigma and shame.

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