Talking to Your Child About Mental Health
What is mental health?
We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. It is about our range of emotions and affects the way we think and feel about ourselves and others, and how we deal with life.
Mental health problems are actually quite common. One in four of us is affected in any year. For under 16s, it’s one in ten people (or three students in the average school classroom). So, even if your family hasn’t been affected, the chances are you or your children will know someone who is going through the experience right now.
Mental health can fluctuate in all of us, whoever we are – over the course of our lives, or even from day to day.
Why is it important to talk about mental health with my child?
Considering how common mental health problems are, you’d think we’d speak more about mental health, wouldn’t you? But it’s still often a topic we avoid.
If you haven’t had a conversation about mental health with your child or children,you’re not alone. But, talking is really important. It means your children will be more likely to come to you should they have difficulties in the future. They will also be better equipped to support their friends if they feel they need to.
How does talking about mental health help?
Sadly, nine in ten people who have a mental health problem say they have experienced stigma and discrimination as a result. In fact, for many of these people, the stigma can be one of the hardest parts of the whole experience.
There are lots of reasons why we might not speak to our children about mental health. Perhaps you didn’t think it was relevant to you and your family, or you might feel you don’t have the right information and knowledge. And, we know it can be difficult to find the time to talk about serious subjects.
But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that discussing mental health can be really helpful. It breaks down the taboos. It enables young people to look after their own mental health, reduces the stigma around asking for help, and allows them to support their peers too.
How do I start a conversation about mental health with my child?
You don’t have to be an expert.
Some topics can be a bit difficult or awkward to discuss with your children. Perhaps you’re not sure quite what to say, or how your child will respond. For many people, mental health can be one of those topics.
Just remember: Not knowing or understanding is OK. There are places to find out more.
Being open will almost always help, and even short chats can make a difference.
Why is it important for children to be educated about mental health?
Young people will likely hear about mental health in the media, but they do not always get taught about it at school, so that means they may be missing the key facts. Discussing mental health informally can really make a difference.
We know that early intervention can greatly increase chances of recovery. Educating young people about mental health will help them better understand and take care of their own well-being. It will reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. It will also increase the chances of young people getting the right help and support should they need it.