Kate Middleton is in the news again this week and not for the tilt of her hat or the length of her hair. She is highlighting Children’s Mental Health Week and it’s a subject that I’m willing to admit I don’t know much about.
The first I knew about it was the Royal endorsement for Place2Be and after reading more, I was shocked by the statistics I read. Even in our more enlightened age, mental health is still one of the few taboos which can easily be swept under the table, in spite of increased media attention and adverts for mental health awareness. Being depressed is still something many people are told to snap out of when and if they get the courage to discuss it or even identify what they are feeling. As an adult, we can research what we feel and seek out professionals. We are able to talk to our doctors, partners or friends but for a child, even if they can begin to understand the complex emotions, finding help is so much harder.
Place2be is a children’s mental health charity that has been supporting children with mental health concerns in schools across England, Scotland and Wales since 1994. Evidence is indicating that early intervention in Primary or Secondary school can reduce the risk of a lifetime of mental health anguish and help children to reach their potential.
As a teenager, I lost a close friend to suicide as a result of depression and the impact on my life was immense. Years later and as a result, I became a Samaritan and was shocked to learn in my training how the most at risk of depression and suicide are young people, particularly teenagers. As foster carers, we are taught to look out for signs of depression and self harm but I’d always thought this was something we should be doing with teenagers and not necessarily younger children. On researching mental health issues with children, I discovered a shocking set of statistics which outline that children as young as five can suffer from mental health problems and that one in five have symptoms of depression.
Adults, with our busy lives, can often assume that children have no concerns; after all they are carefree and just play! It is easy to think that they don’t have to worry about the mortgage, rent, food, relationships…the future, but they do worry. Children pick up on the stress their family or parents suffer and will worry about how mum is going to pay the rent, pay for the school trip or will the fact that their parents are fighting mean that they won’t see dad anymore? I volunteer at a local food bank and we see many children come in with a parent and no matter how straightforward we are, the children are always the most affected, embarrassed or afraid.
According to Place2B, half the children they see are from low income families and receiving free school meals. Poverty, worries about money or jobs affects everyone in the family, not just the adults. Add to that the additional stress of peer pressure, school assessments, boyfriend/girlfriend troubles along with bullying and it’s easy to see how a child might find coping difficult. Children are also at risk of neglect and domestic violence as well as worrying about other family members if there is abuse in the home. Bereavement, loss and anxiety are not exclusive to adults and any trauma can have a huge impact on a child’s mental health.
Place2be doesn’t just offer one to one counselling with children but supports parents, carers and teachers, provides training and advice to support the child. Having a royal endorsement from Kate Middleton, HRH, The Duchess of Cambridge, will spotlight the work being done by Place2Be and other charities, provide children with invaluable emotional support and enable them to build resilience and strength for the future. More importantly, she has brought children’s mental health issues out from the closet and taken some of the stigma away from a taboo subject, too dangerous to ignore.
You can watch Kate Middleton’s video here.