Northampton mental health campaigner gives his advice to young people as part of Children's Mental Health Week

"The last year and a half has been extremely difficult for the majority of us and it has been an exceptionally difficult time for children and young people"

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 2:42 pm
Picture: Joe Plumb

Northampton's Joe Plumb has become a source of mental health guidance for many people during the coronavirus crisis.

The public figure, who set up an anti-bullying charity aged 13, has been holding isolation mental health check-ins on his social media pages with different colour hearts symbolising how people feel.

Here Joe shares his views and advice as part of Children's Mental Health Week:

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Yesterday (Monday February 1, 2021) marked the start of #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek.

The last year and a half has been extremely difficult for the majority of us. This has been an exceptionally difficult time for children and young people all over the world, causing a surge in problems with their mental health & well-being.

Last week, Paediatricians from around the UK have warned that depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidal thoughts amongst young people are at 'frightening levels'. They have urged the government to open schools for to avoid a 'calamitous' impact on children's mental health.

Schools have been shut in the UK since the very start of the country's third national lockdown which has had a major impact on many people's mental health.

The impact the pandemic is having on young people is being felt all across the globe. In the United States, Las Vegas schools are now reopening after 18 students took their own lives. The youngest amongst those students was just nine years old.

On Sunday Evening, the 'Duchess Of Cambridge' released a video in support of #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek, emphasising the importance around looking after children's mental health.

In the message, the 'Duchess of Cambridge' said: “This year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is all about expressing yourself – about finding creative ways in which to share your thoughts, ideas and feelings. So whether that’s through photography, through art, through drama, through music or poetry – it’s finding those things that makes you feel good about yourself."

“And while this is Children’s Mental Health Week there has never been a more important time to talk about parental wellbeing and mental health too. Last year you told me just how important this was that many of us find it hard to prioritise."

"This is a hugely challenging time for us all so please look after yourself too. Find those ways in which to share your thoughts and your feelings or find someone to talk to because we really do need to be the very best versions of ourselves for the children in our care.”

The emotional wellbeing of children is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health allows children and young people to develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Things that can help keep children and young people mentally well include:

* being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise

* having time and the freedom to play, indoors and outdoors

* being part of a family that gets along well most of the time

* going to a school that looks after the wellbeing of all its pupils

* taking part in local activities for young people.

Other factors are also important, including:

* feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe

* being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves

* being hopeful and optimistic

* being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed

* accepting who they are and recognising what they are good at

* having a sense of belonging in their family, school and community

* feeling they have some control over their own life

* having the strength to cope when something is wrong (resilience) and the ability to solve problems.

How can you support children's mental health at home?

* Find time to talk, just the two of you – ‘Check in’ with them while you’re doing things together, so they get used to talking about their feelings.

* Play together – Play helps them to be curious, learn new things, solve problems and express feelings without words.

* Be a role-model – Show how you cope with difficult feelings and look after yourself.

* Don't Be Forceful - As a parent, it worries us when we can see our child is struggling. We want to help and support them but getting them to talk can be tough. Be gentle in your approach and don't be forceful to get them to talk.

* Use a 'Mindfulness Journal' - Sometimes verbalising feelings can be extremely challenging for Children. Writing down feelings and keeping a journal is often less stressful and helps to understand thoughts and feelings. It also helps the parent see how their child is feeling. You can download a the Kidscape Journal which is easy to use and fun to fill in. (I use it too).

Support for under-18s

If you’re worried about something, talk to an adult that you trust as soon as possible.

This could be:

* Someone in your family, like your mum, dad or carer

* Someone at school, like a teacher or Place2Be (if you have it in your school)

* Your doctor.

If you are not sure who to talk to:

* Call Childline on 0800 1111 or Text CONNECT to 85258 to contact Shout (in partnership with Place2Be). Talk or text for free any time, wherever you are in the UK.

If you're worried about a child or young person

* If their life is in immediate danger, call 999.

* If not, I recommend talking to someone who can help you understand what they might be going through and refer you to support in your area.

This could be:

* Your doctor

* The Place2Be staff member at their school OR a similar support service if the school doesn’t have Place2Be

* The Young Minds Parents Helpline, which you can call for free on 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4pm, Monday-Friday, UK).

* Kidscape Parent Support Line: Call: 020 7823 5430 - WhatsApp: 07496 682785 Find out more here

You can also find out more on Joe's website at www.joeplumb.org and my social media (Listed Below).