World Mental Health Day Reflection

Posted on October 10, 2016 by Amy Tolmie
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s,

Today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. Ruth Ayres, the project manager of SelfharmUK, reflects on mental health and what our response should be. 

Here we are again, that time of year when we think about mental health and how it impacts us and those we love. Over the last few years our society has seen a huge increase in mental health, anxiety, self-harm and depression to name just a few. The World Health Organisation released some research stating that 20% of adolescents may experience a mental health problem in any given year, and that a staggering 50% of Mental Health problems are established by 14 and 75% by the age of 24.

Given these statistics and the growing number of young people who turn to self-injury or harming behaviours as coping mechanisms – I want to spend the next few minutes thinking about how we respond as people who are involved in their lives, day in and day out.

I believe we need to continually address, think about, and openly talk about how we build emotional resilience in the young people who look up to us and those we work with. Whether you work with young people one on one, in a group setting or maybe if you are a parent, what I would recommend is you get to know them and their true experiences, here are a few ideas how:

1.     Listen to their language

How can we support, celebrate and champion young people if we don’t know the language they are using? Tap in to the way they speak about one another and more importantly how they speak about themselves. Low self-worth and hatred can often start with a use of language about one’s self.

2.     Ask them questions

It may sound an obvious one but ask them how they cope when things are tough, what and who they turn too, how someone would know if they are having a bad day. Ask about them, their life and how they feel about themselves and the world. SelfharmUK have some excellent tools to help with this, namely the talking about emotions playing cards and they can be found and purchased here

3.     Scaling

Help young people to really talk about how they are feeling and coping by getting them to scale their feelings. For example, the one thing that would make me incredibly angry would be someone hurting or harming my nieces and nephews. In angry terms that would put me at a 10, if I smash my laptop I may be at a 5 and that is ok, but I am nowhere near a 10. Young people need those around them who can help them recognise and articulate that. If a young person doesn’t feel a happiness of 10 all the time, it doesn’t mean they need to think they are depressed. We need to help them first to recognise and name their feelings and then to sit with the pain that may come from them.

4.     Lead by example

We can’t expect young people to manage their mental health and emotions well if they haven’t been shown how to do it. Be open and ensure they know that sometimes we all need help and support in our lives and asking for it is not a bad thing.

World Mental Health day gives us the much needed space to think how mental health affects us and those around us. To ensure we are raising a generation with the ability to bounce back from difficult and hurtful situations, let’s get them talking and thinking about their needs and their emotional resilience. But please, let’s not wait until this time next year to do it. Let’s do it today, always and everywhere.