Today marks the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week. This initiative is ran by Place2Be, who are a children’s mental health charity. Though Children’s Mental Health Week began in 2015, this is the first year I’ve known about it (thanks to Rachael and her fantastic list of notable dates in 2019).
I learnt about Place2Be at Christmas, when I purchased some charity cards in Paperchase. They offer support services for pupils, parents and teachers, as well as conducting research into children’s mental health. In one of their recent studies of over 1000 young people, 56% of participants said they worry all the time about something.
Several of us look back at childhood fondly. It was an easier time, with far less responsibilities. Personally, I loved my childhood. There were some hard situations in the mix, though – the most prevalent being my Grandma’s death when I was eight years old.
To refer back to the aforementioned study, I certainly don’t recall worrying all the time. That’s not what I associate my childhood with, and it makes me sad to think that such a vast number of children do. It feels wrong to me. We spend so much of our adult lives worrying – about work, about bills, about all sorts. Childhood should be more or less free of such a strain.
The challenges of childhood
Thinking about it, though, children have a great deal to contend with. For me, one of the biggest issues was the pressures I faced because I was smart, but there are so many hurdles a child can face.
Some are victims are of bullying. Others are full time carers for their parents. Some may experience bereavement, just as I did. There is pressure from tests and exams. Several may be experiencing abuse at home. And most, I imagine, have access to the internet which brings along its own problems.
Social media and the internet are not solely to blame. However, I am always grateful of the fact it wasn’t such a huge deal during my childhood. As an adult, I find social media hard to navigate at times. I know to step away when it starts to feel like a burden, but I dread to think of the effect it has on children and teenagers.
They are at a stage in their life when they could be easily influenced. They are inundated with images and videos – many of which will be harmful to their self-esteem. The sheer amount of information available at their fingertips has the potential to be dangerous.
In the context of bullying, it makes it so much easier for that problem to follow a child home. They have no escape; no relief. It’s relentless. The impact that must have is heartbreaking to consider. When I was bullied in secondary school, there was always comfort in knowing I’d go home and have a safe place. The same can’t be said of many young individuals today.
This tends to open up a new debate about parents letting their children on the internet. Let’s face it: it’s everywhere. A parent could try their hardest, but, in this day and age, it’s near impossible to avoid it altogether.
Children’s Mental Health Week 2019
The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 is “Healthy: Inside and Out”. Previous themes include “Being Ourselves” in 2018, and “Spread A Little Kindness” in 2017.
This year, it will highlight the close relationship between physical and mental wellbeing. The aim is to encourage children (and the rest of us) to take care of both. It provides support for the fact that mental health is just as important as physical health. This is a great thing to teach children, whether they are currently struggling or not.
I love the fact Children’s Mental Health week seems to be tackling two issues simultaneously: childhood obesity, and children’s mental health. I think this is a brilliant way to encourage children to be more active, and bring attention to the external and internal benefits. Though physical activity isn’t the only way to look after your brain, it does have plenty of plus points.
I wish Children’s Mental Health Week existed when I was younger. I’m glad it’s in place for children now. Many people assume that mental health and mental illness are only important as you get older. The truth is, they matter throughout our lives. The sooner we begin to learn that, the better.