Taking care of your child’s mental health: Guest blog by Chloe Walker

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(image: Power of Positivity)

Mental health is extremely important and has a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. According to a recent survey by the NHS, one in eight 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed. As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s mental health. Fortunately, you can help improve your child’s mental health by creating a supportive family environment at home and learning the early warning signs of common mental health disorders, for example. With this in mind, here are some top ways to care for your child’s mental health. 

Develop a good bedtime routine 

Sleep plays a vital role in a child’s mental health. Research shows that there is a strong link between sleep problems and an increased risk of developing certain mental illnesses. In fact, one study found that four-year olds with sleep disorders have a much higher risk of developing symptoms of mental health conditions as six-year olds, when compared with children without sleep problems. Experts at Little Lucy Willow add – “Sleep keeps you calm, your mind alert, and recharges your body to enable you to get up and face each day.” For that reason, you must try and get your child into a good bedtime routine from a young age. Here are some top tips to help your child sleep better:

  • Create an ideal sleeping space by providing a comfortable bed, installing blackout curtains, and minimising any outdoor noise. 
  • Encourage your child not to use electronics like smartphones before bed. 
  • Get your child into a consistent routine where they go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Try to keep this the same on school days and weekends. 
  • Make sure that your child avoids any caffeine in the afternoon or evenings. 
  • Visit your GP if your child has been experiencing sleep problems for more than two weeks, or if the symptoms are interfering with their daily life. 

Exercise as a family 

Exercise plays an important role in a child’s overall health. Along with the physical benefits, regular exercise can greatly improve mental wellbeing. This is because physical activity releases endorphins in the brain which creates feelings of happiness and alleviates stress and anxiety. According to advice on the NHS website, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.

To give you an idea, examples of moderate intensity exercise include walking to school, riding a bicycle, and playground activities. Exercising as a family is an excellent way to encourage your child to be active. It also allows you to spend quality time together as a family and build closer bonds. Playing games in the garden, going for a walk in the park, or going on a bike ride, are all fun ways to exercise together as a family. You could also encourage your child to start playing a team sport they’re interested in, such as football, rugby, or hockey. 

Encourage open communication

You must create a welcoming family environment that is built around trust and understanding. This will help your child feel comfortable telling you about any issues surrounding their mental health. Encourage open communication in your family and make sure you check on your child if you notice any changes in their behaviour i.e. they become distant or their eating habits change.

Remember that children tell people how they are feeling in several ways, not always verbally. A sudden change in behaviour may signal that your child is struggling and needs support. Always listen to your child and empathise with their feelings. Let them know that it’s natural to feel down from time to time and offer support in any way you can.

If you’re still worried about your child’s mental health, then speak with your GP or contact a mental health specialist for further advice. 

Final thoughts 

Mental health illnesses in children are becoming increasingly common and can lead to several serious long-term effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for you to care for your child’s mental health. Encouraging healthy habits is a simple yet effective way to improve your child’s mental well-being. This should include exercising regularly, getting enough quality sleep, and following a nutritious diet. Along with this, you should also educate yourself on the symptoms of common mental health conditions in children and create a warm, trusting home environment that encourages open communication. Speak to a medical professional if you need to.

This guest blog was written by professional writer Chloe Walker.

 

Christmas for CAMHS Campaign to brighten up Children’s Christmas in Mental health wards: Guest post

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(image: Christmas for CAMHS charity)

Christmas for CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are a registered charity providing gifts each year for children and young people who are in mental health units in the UK over the Christmas holiday. They say,

Our aim is to make as many children and young people who are inpatients over the Christmas holidays feel thought-about, special and included.

We have been hugely supported over the past few years by generous donations from the public and have received much gratitude as a result from inpatient units. However, we are only able to provide gifts with your charitable donations. ‘

Christmas For CAMHS was originally set up because volunteers saw a huge disparity in the way CAMHS units were treated over the festive period compared to other NHS services for children and young people. They wanted to do something to change that and say,

‘Children are admitted to CAMHS units to receive support and treatment for mental health issues. There are no official figures for how many children will spend the festive season in CAMHS units across the UK. While many members of the public and corporate donors give Christmas gifts to Children’s hospitals or children’s wards in general hospitals, CAMHS units, which are usually based away from other services, are often forgotten, or not known about.’

Ro Bevan, doctor and founder says,

‘Five years ago I worked in a children’s hospital at Christmas time and there were many presents donated, mostly from corporate donors. There were so many presents that there was enough leftover for patients’ birthdays until June of the following year. A year later, I was working in child and adolescent mental health. We had no presents donated. Our patients had one present each, chosen by the therapy team, paid for out of the ward’s budget – saved from the NHS budget that is meant to cover therapeutic activities, and other expenses. I posted about the inequality on Facebook and before I knew it, my post had goneviral with 1,032 shares and so many supportive comments. It inspired me to start a group the following year and together we have raised over £1,000 to help children who would otherwise be forgotten by the generous public.

‘We don’t know whether this disparity is because people just don’t know that there
are children in mental health hospitals, or whether it’s indicative of the stigma that
society attaches to mental health issues. Regardless, we’re hoping to raise
awareness and address the balance. Although this project started with a simple
Facebook post, it has already gone further than I ever could’ve imagined possible
and reaching units across the UK which is a dream come true.’

This year, a special advent calendar has been designed by Sam Barakat, featuring  positive quotes every day, rather than chocolate. As well as this, there will be 32 windows, one for every day from December 1st to January 1st. 50 will also be donated to mental health units via Christmas for CAMHS. Sam says, ‘For many, Christmas is a joyful time that is spent with friends and family. For others, it can be the hardest time of year. This could be due to past events, trauma,  loneliness  or mental illness. ‘

I (Eleanor) feel this is such an incredible campaign that will touch the hearts of many. I was in a CAMHS unit aged 16 over Christmas and think this will help many people.  

You can donate and buy a calendar here for someone struggling : https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-mental-wellbeing-advent-calendar?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

To donate to Christmas for CAMHS and give presents to ill children click here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/
CAMHS2019

Website and more information: www.christmasforcamhs.org.uk

 

How stressed are UK Students in 2019? Guest post by the Natwest Student Living Index

 

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(Image: Natwest Student Living Index)

The NatWest Student Living Index 2019 has launched recently,  delving into both stress and mental health for students at university.
https://personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/students-and-graduates/student-living-index.html

University-age students are more engaged with mental health and wellbeing than ever, and the study found that 1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health support.

Other noteworthy findings from the survey include:
• 71% of students say that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs (gym classes, yoga, meditation, mindfulness)
• 40% of students are concerned about their financial situation following university
• 45% of students find their university degree stressful
• 1 in 4 UK students find managing money stressful

The 2019 NatWest Student Living Index revealed that close to half of all UK students feel
extremely stressed by their degree studies. 1 in 4 students in the UK described managing their money as extremely stressful, while only 6% felt they received sufficient money management support from their university on average.

NatWest’s Student Living Index 2019 asked students from 35 top university cities about all aspects of student life, including the amount of wellbeing and mental health support on offer for students at university in 2019.

Is their degree the cause of the stress? On average, 45% of students in the UK feel extremely stressed by their degree  Cambridge (60%) and Durham (57%) students are the most stressed by their degree studies.
Have Universities supported students with mental health resources?

1 in 4 students are very satisfied with their university’s mental health resources, while 71% said that their university offers affordable health and wellbeing programs.
Interestingly, while students in Poole feel the most stressed by money management, the city also came last when students were asked about the availability of affordable well-being programs:

 53% of students in Poole said their university offers affordable well-being programs, this is the lowest ranked city and 18% below national average.

 Less than 1% of Students in Reading and Stirling feel supported by their university when managing their finances.

 94% of students in Aberystwyth feel their university offers affordable well-being programs

Are you a student in the UK? Read more about the findings here:  https://personal.natwest.com/personal/life-moments/students-and-graduates/student-living-index.html

The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga: Guest post by Manmohan Singh

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(image: https://www.gaia.com/series/yoga-every-day)

Mental illness is like any other illness in the body. With Yoga, it can be treated and helped to heal. Yoga encourages mental fitness and healing of the mind.

Living in a modernised world, many of us still have conformist ideologies. Mental illness  is misinterpreted. It is often a deep-rooted issue, which, if not helped, can become life-threatening. Day-to-day stresses and heartbreak can lead to depression and other mental illness. If the condition becomes severe, it can lead to self-destructive tendencies, including self harm.

There are many ways (meditation, therapies, etc.) to prevent and help mental illness, with yoga being one of the most natural and safe options. According to many studies, it is confirmed that Yoga has the ability to relieve stress and anxiety and reduce mild depression and other mental illnesses.

So, let’s see the amazing mental health benefits of Yoga:

 

Calms The Nervous System

Yoga has the power to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety levels. It makes you enter into a more relaxed state, and gradually, you move from flight or fight-to rest and digest mode (or move from the sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic nervous system). Yoga reduces stress, anxiety, depression, treats insomnia, and other kinds of health issues.

Makes You Self-Aware

Yoga practice helps to ignite the sense of Self. Through yoga, you know yourself better and form a deeper connection from within. Yoga helps build self-trust, increases self-awareness that helps in making healthier choices- like eating healthier, living the right lifestyle. You learn to accept yourself, develop stronger willpower, bring your consciousness back to the present, feel more confident, and gradually realise your self-worth.

Helps Mend  Relationships

Emotions and feelings contribute a lot towards ones mental health. A traumatising incident, heartbreak, death of loved ones, and many other day-to-day relationship struggles, can affect our mind and lead to mental illness.

Yoga ignites awareness and not only helps us improve our relationship with the Self but with others as well. When you form a positive relationship with the Self, you tend to deal with others in the same manner. A healthy relationship helps to maintain the overall mental well-being as well.

Reduces Inflammation Related To Genes

According to a study, it is proven that 15 minutes of yoga practice or relaxation techniques switches off the genes that are responsive to stress and inflammation. With the modern world, stress is something that is often found. This stress leads to various mental health conditions. Our body is designed in a manner that it has the ability to reduce stress and this mechanism is called the ‘relaxation response’. With yoga relaxation techniques, you can easily trigger the stress reduction ability.

Yoga practice is the best way to fire your body’s built-in mechanism that helps mental relaxation. 15-20 minutes of yoga practice triggers the biochemical changes in the brain cells and protects from stress and anxiety.

Yoga Boosts GABA Level

Our brain is filled with receptors and GABA or GABA receptors or gamma-aminobutyric acid is linked with anxiety and mood disorders. When the brain drops the GABA activity, the mood of a person becomes lower and they start feeling more anxious.  

With the help of yoga practice, you can boost the GABA level. Practice yoga for an hour daily to get positive results.

Reduces The Effect Of Traumatic Incidents

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a serious issue that people face after going through a traumatising or negative situation, shocking or terrifying experiences. People in this condition frequently experience flashbacks and nightmares of the situation they have had come across. With yoga, a person can help himself come out from the situation and help the mind.

Improves Concentration And Boosts Memory

Sometimes, our brain finds it difficult to do or concentrate on the day-to-day tasks. Yoga practice has proven effective in boosting memory and improving concentration and also clears the mind and calms the senses.

Prevents Mental Health Disorders At Every Age

A mental health condition can occur at any age depending on the situation you are in or what you’re going through. According to a study, people of age group 18-35 are at high risk of mental illness and have periods of severe stress.

These issues can also occur during adolescence, due to various reasons, including genetics but also envrionmental- family disputes, fights, peer pressure, body shaming, academics etc. Teenagers also go through many physical, mental and emotional changes.

Yoga practice helps elevate the mood, reduce stress and anxiety, prevent depression, control anger, and ignites mindfulness.

People as they get older can also face these mental health issues due to loneliness, change of the environment, alcohol abuse, dementia, loss of loved one, long-term illness, physical disability, poor diet, etc., Yoga can be beneficial to health.

Yoga Asanas To Practice For Mental Health- Balasana, Viparita Karani Asana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, and Shavasana. Also practice Pranayama like: Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom and Bhramari.

It is rightly said that a healthy mind breeds a healthy body, and vice-versa. It is important to have good, positive mental health for complete fitness and healthy, happy living.

Practising yoga promotes better health, try it today!

 

 

Author Bio: Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.

Website: https://www.rishikulyogshala.org/

Being a parent of a child taking GCSE exams and looking after wellbeing: Guest Post by David Welham

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(image: http://thesprout.co.uk)

Millions of parents would have experienced the stress and anxiety this summer in the UK with their children taking GCSE’s.

As a parent I was no different and wanted to share my experience. Exams are so different from when I took them. There are more, they take place over just a weeks and in my opinion changes to GCSE’s have been rushed without thinking about the effect on our children’s mental health. 

It seems that they were changed because employers were feeling that they were too easy.

As if my son didn’t have enough to occupy his mind, his future, should he do an apprenticeship, or should he go to college and not to mention the intense revision and preparation for exams.

I remember talking to other parents who also felt the same and expressed real concerns that their children would struggle to cope. They all said what happens if he or see is struggling I am not sure where to go or to talk to. We agreed that if I as a parent appear anxious how can I expect my child to cope.

Its fine just saying things will be OK and not to worry but I did worry, and I secretly just wanted the three weeks to pass as quickly as possible. 

My son decided that Xbox would be too much of a distraction and that it can be put away. I thought that this was mature and the right decision. He worked out a revision plan and we thought about his downtime, but I could still see anxiety and worry.

So I made a plan to make sure that he looked after his wellbeing. Checking in that he was alright and that he looked after his physical health and mental health. I was aware that it was important to take time out from the revision and as advised by school not to stop doing what he likes and change his routine. 

He went to the gym and out with his friends to maintain his relationships. We also planned things as a family as well in-between revision. This broke up the daily grind but there were still periods when I was concerned that he wouldn’t get through it.

I read articles in the news and spoke to school but talking to my son there were children who really struggled. He said that they were really not coping with their mental health. I worried when I heard about children crying, running out of the exam room and parents being called to take them home.

This can’t be right and is something that more research should be undertaken into the effects during exams as I can’t help thinking that we are setting them up for serious problems with their mental health further down the line.

I have suggestions on how to lessen the stress and anxiety during exam time.

Spread the exams over a longer period to give teenagers a bit of breathing space and allow them to take a break. If the exams were spread out there would be less intensity and time to do other things in their lives. I would also suggest there is less focus on the results and outcome and that children can just be children, without such a great amount of stress.

David Welham is a mental health writer from the UK