It’s time to take action around young people’s mental wellbeing and growth.
In the UK, one in six children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem and are faced with a host of challenges from bullying to bereavement. This also comes with the stresses and pressures of daily life.
Whether you are a parent, carer or work with children in another capacity, Children’s Mental Health Week opens new avenues to discussing the topic and being part of a change in attitudes and actions.
Taking place from 7 to 13 February, the week, which is run by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, primarily focusses on schools and the wider community they encompass. Julia Clements, principal educational psychologist at the organisation, works to promote inclusive practices in schools through workshops for teachers. This includes teachers who work with students with special educational needs and disabilities.
“The mental health needs of these students can tend to get overlooked, so it’s important that school staff are encouraged to have this on their radar and know how to support these students,” insists Julia. “I also work closely with Place2Be counsellors to ensure our counselling is accessible, adapted and appropriate for studentswith special educational needs.”
Since its launch in 2015, the week has highlighted a different theme annually, each based around the current issues affecting children and young people across the UK.
“Place2Be launched the first Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to highlight the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Throughout the week and beyond, we aim to help improve teachers’, parents’ and carers’ understanding and confidence to promote good mental health for all children and young people,” explains Julia.
“Over the years we have covered a wide range of themes such as bravery, kindness and the links between physical and mental health.”
In 2021, it was the biggest Children’s Mental Health Week yet, emphasising the importance of self-expression and its link to mental health with the theme express yourself.
“We had the most engagement we’ve ever had for the week, and we know that the more people involved and talking, the more the week achieves,” admits Julia.
As we approach the awareness event for 2022, Place2Be are celebrating growth. This year’s theme, growing together, is about growing emotionally and finding ways to help others grow. It encourages children and adults to consider how they’ve grown, and how they can help others to grow now and in the future.
This theme and the surrounding resources reflect the events of the last two years.
“During the pandemic, people have sometimes felt a bit stuck or as if their lives have been put on hold,” empathises Julia. “Despite this, many individuals, groups, families and school communities have managed to keep going and keep growing.
“Recent times have reminded us of how much we need others in our lives to help us to keep growing, especially when things get tough. So, we’re encouraging children, adults and school communities to explore how they have grown together, and to celebrate how, even through difficult times, with the right support, they can continue to grow and even flourish.”
While physical growth is easy to see, emotional growth can be more difficult to measure, but it is just as important in helping us to cope with life’s ups and downs.
“Although life can be tough at times, with the right support, challenges
and setbacks can help us to grow and develop,” offers Julia. “By highlighting how much we have all grown it gives us a chance to reflect on how we have overcome the challenges we have faced in our lives.”
In order to create a nurturing, safe environment where children and young people have the opportunity to grow emotionally, the community around them has to encourage the right conversations.
“At Place2Be we take a whole-school approach to mental health. That means that we want all school communities – the students, their teachers and their parent carers – to feel that they can have conversations about mental health,”explains Julia. “This approach to mental health, being able to speak about it in an ordinary, everyday way, will help reduce the shame and stigma that can still surround mental health.
“Reduced stigma and shame can lead to teachers and parent-carers being more open to talking about mental health, and in turn, children and young people will be more empowered to speak up when they need help.”
Destigmatising mental health is important in all areas of society, especially for the disability community who can often face loneliness and isolation. In the lead up to and during the week, there will be dedicated resources to support communities to get involved. These free tools include a social media toolkit to help share the week’s message, with further resources and videos due to be added as the week begins.
Any schools or groups taking part can also add themselves to an interactive map to inspire other people around the country to take part, and to symbolise the growth of conversations on mental health at this time.