Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place in the week of the 7th – 13th February 2022 and is a time to not only raise awareness of mental health issues amongst children, but to also offer advice and information and showcase some of the work that can be done in this area to help all children develop positive attitudes towards their mental health, and that of others too. This year’s theme is “Growing Together”, and the aim is to encourage children (and adults) to consider how they have grown, and how they can help others to grow.
According to the CMHW website, “Growing Together” is about growing emotionally and finding ways to help each other grow. Challenges and setbacks can help us to grow and adapt and trying new things can help us to move beyond our comfort zone into a new realm of possibility and potential. However, emotional growth is often a gradual process that happens over time, and sometimes we might feel a bit stuck.”
The pandemic has had a negative effect on the mental health of many people, and two years after the virus first arrived on UK shores, we may have developed strategies, vaccines and treatments to tackle the virus, but we are still many years away from seeing the full impact of lockdowns, school closures and changes to our everyday patterns of behaviour. It is more important than ever that we face up to the challenges that have been created in our population’s mental health, and absolutely vital that we find solutions to deal with the burgeoning mental health issues in our children.
A 2021 report on the “Mental Health of Children and Young People in England” has highlighted some of the main problems facing young people today reporting that since 2017, rates of probable mental disorders have increased in children aged 6 to 16 years from 1 in 9 (11.6%) to 1 in 6 (17.4%). In 17- to 19-year-olds, it increased from 1 in 10 (10.1%) to 1 in 6 (17.4%).
This means that in most classes of 30 students in mainstream schools, there are at least 5 students who are facing mental health challenges.
Nearly 40% of children aged between 6 and 16 reported a deterioration in their mental health since 2017, and this figure rose to over half (52.5%) of those aged 17 to 23 years. The report also highlighted an increase in possible eating problems and sleeping disorders as well. Clearly, the romantic, fictional notion of a carefree, stress-free childhood is not the reality that many of our children are living.
What is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week?
In 2015, the charity, Place2Be, launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week to “shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.” Place2Be offers a variety of different mental health and counselling services to meet schools’ needs, including in-school support, expert training and resources, and has over 25 years experience in helping young people.
2022 will be the 8th year of the week-long event and Place2Be are hoping that more people than ever will join in and spread the word. They are calling on everyone, whether they are a parent/carer, childcare professional, teacher, nursery practitioner, youth worker, or just someone who is passionate about children and young people, to sign up and do their bit. And they’ve made it easy to do as well. You can sign up for more information on the CMHW website, where you can find a lot of free resources, lesson plans, social media banners and suggested posts for the week.
The resources are designed to be used by schools, online lessons, home-schooling or independent learning and can be adapted to help children and young people explore the theme of “Growing Together”.
How to get involved
There are many ways to get involved in this year’s event including:
- Adding your name and ideas to the UK CMHW map by filling in a short online form
- Posting your stories and images on your social media pages using the hashtag #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek. You can also download a free social media guide which includes template posts, downloadable images, inspiring idea
- Run a fund-raising event to raise money
- Hold a “Dress to Express Day” in your setting and encourage everyone to wear whatever they want to express themselves – you can run it as a mufti day if you have a uniform or just ask people to donate £1 to the cause and dress up!
- Hold a ‘fun’ day to lighten the load and bring a bit of fun and sunshine back into everyone’s lives. You could dress in bright colours or decorate your setting with things that make you and your children smile, play games, have a party or hold a laughter session
- Get out into nature and go for a walk. This is an inexpensive and simple way to help children reconnect to their natural surroundings and exercise is a well-known tonic to help combat stress and mental health issues because it stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood
The NHS have published advice on how to improve mental well-being and suggest 5 easy ways which have been proven to help, especially with mild to moderate depression. These are:
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
- Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)
You can find simple examples of how to do these 5 things on the website here, where you will find some simple suggestions of things to do and things to avoid.
Remember that children can often find expressing their emotions difficult and they may be unable to express how they really feel, especially younger children.
Often, when children are stressed or anxious and unable to properly express themselves verbally, they may present with challenging behaviours, so always be patient and remember that behaviour is the child’s way of communicating that something is wrong.
Let us know what you are doing to get involved in the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week by sending us your stories and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.