A good mental health is vital from an early age. Vital for the ability to grow, develop and learn. If you are mentally healthy it is much easier to meet life’s challenges successfully and happily. It is the foundation to a positive well-being.
At the moment one in ten children or young people are affected by mental health in the UK. So why is it so prevalent in young people? There are many reasons for children to be affected by mental health issues, but if it isn’t spotted and supported early then a child may continue on a pathway that causes a lifetime of frustration and anguish, which may cause regret and missed out opportunities – all because mental health issues hampered their development and progression early on in life.
The worrying situation at present is that some schools are being asked to pay for services to support vulnerable students – so why not the health service? Most likely due to cuts… As recently reported by the BBC, some schools have even had to call the police or send children to A&E to get support from qualified practitioners.
It’s clear that it’s challenging to access services for young people.
Things that can trigger mental health problems are quite often traumatic events such as moving house or school, experiencing the death of someone close, gaining a new sibling, the change of becoming a teenager or physical illness. Other issues are, for example learning difficulties, persistent bullying, poverty, acting as a carer for a relative, long-term physical illness, chronic exposure to stress and drug use. It can be a combination of factors – their environment, biological make-up and personal psychological stability that builds the platform for developing a mental health problem.
At times these events or exposures are known to bring about depression, insomnia, anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar, ADHD, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, eating disorders or self-harm if you are susceptible to them.
Some signs to look for are mood changes, feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks, intense feelings i.e. overwhelming fear for no reason, behaviour changes, unexplained weight loss and difficulty concentrating.
But who does the responsibility fall to, to ensure children have adequate support? Much of the burden has fallen upon teachers due to health services being squeezed, together with school counsellors and nurses being made redundant.
Unfortunately teachers now have such huge workloads put upon them that there is little time left for pastoral care, it becomes yet another pressure that perhaps they’re unable to fulfil – and is not their job to be held fully accountable for such issues. A teachers’ mental health needs to solid before dealing with others, and many in the profession could do with support themselves due to the ever demanding profession it has become – and that is another issue in itself.
Yes teachers should be fully trained to spot issues and to enable an effective monitoring system. However there really needs to be a fundamental change in access to support services. It is important that more awareness of the subject among parents develops so that any problems can be spotted early and treated accordingly.
Developing a mental health problem can make learning very challenging whether in school environment or with home-schooling, and in some cases it may become debilitating. If it gets out of control for too long, it really can hold you back from being able to progress. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs Teens Sleep & Problem Solving, managing anxiety takes up valuable working memory space that could be used for problem solving – a skill that is used in many subjects at school, especially in maths. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health issue in Britain today, and perhaps it’s time everyone was more aware of the symptoms in young people and where to get help, so that many young lives can be prevented from being a struggling and hopeless journey into the unknown.