What is mental health?

Mental health refers to a person’s psychological or emotional well-being. Many people have experience with mental health issues, either in themselves or in a loved one. Common mental health struggles include anxiety, depression, panic attacks, low self-esteem, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

The charity Mind believes that one in four people suffer from mental health problems. These can be hard to see, treat and understand as, unlike a physical condition, mental health problems and their symptoms are not usually visible.

Mental Health in Young People and Children

Mental Health Foundation research shows one in ten children are affected by poor mental health. Unfortunately, this same research shows that 70% of those children are never diagnosed and do not receive the proper support or treatment from a young enough age.

The most common mental health issues that affect children and teenagers are depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). The organisation Young Minds believes there was a 68% increase between 2001 and 2011 in the number of children admitted to hospital due to self-harm. However, the Office of National Statistics carried out the last report into children’s mental health in 2004, so mental health and youth organisations and advocates have been lobbying for funding to go into better, more up to date data on the situation of young people’s mental health.

Why is it important to be aware of mental health from an early age?

The symptoms of mental health disorders in children are often dismissed as bad behaviour, boisterousness, ‘a phase’ or hormones. Sometimes they are missed altogether, as being uncommunicative and secretive can be seen as normal teenage behaviour.

Like anything left untreated, mental health will only get worse over time, and can have detrimental effects in many areas of life. It can manifest itself with symptoms that may become dangerous to the child or others around them. More than that, it can affect behaviour and reactions to setbacks throughout adulthood. Being aware of and supportive to a child or teenager with any mental health issues will give them a strong foundation and teach them how to cope with a multitude of things later in life.

By being aware and supportive you are teaching your child to look after him or herself. Forming these good habits from a young age will carry them through into adulthood and can mean they are more aware of their strengths and more able to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Obstacles, of course, are developmentally necessary: they teach kids strategy, patience, critical thinking, resilience and resourcefulness.” - Naomi Wolf

7 ways to raise mentally healthy children

  1. When your child is telling you something, don’t just dismiss their repeated entreaties as bad behaviour. Listen to what he or she is really saying. Often a child won’t directly express something verbally, especially if they do not yet possess the skills to do so. Listen for the subtext of what your child is saying.
  2. Build a safe environment. If your child refuses to talk to you about a problem, find ways to connect to him or her that you know they enjoy and trust. For example, try reading the same book together to talk about after, play a game or find movies you can watch together - something relaxed and familiar that doesn’t need to force conversations about issues your child might not be ready to discuss. Feeling safe and comfortable will encourage your child to open up.
  3. Don’t belittle their emotions. If they feel something, it is valid. It is important to teach children that their feelings are real and to acknowledge them. Young children are not able to moderate their feelings and expression in the way that adults are. That is part of the learning process. Allow the expression of their feelings and teach them healthy ways to continue to express them.
  4. Positive reinforcement. Children face so many pressures at school and in social situations. They can be very hard on themselves. Help them find the positives in situations that might feel negative and help them to recognise their own positive attributes. This will build confidence and help them in the future.
  5. Don’t be afraid of bad behaviour. Sometimes there are just phases of bad behaviour. Not everything is a sign of a mental health disorder. Don’t be afraid of responding with appropriate discipline if your child has done something wrong. But don’t punish in the heat of an emotional moment. Take time to think about what the reasonable consequence is of the behaviour or action and explain it thoroughly to your child so they understand what is happening and why.
  6. Allow open communication. Showing your child that you will talk about anything and it is safe for them to come and talk to you about anything will encourage them to be open with you. You’re more likely to see the early signs of something being wrong when your child feels able to communicate with you.
  7. Ask for help. If you are worried about your child, ask for help. If there are signs of a mental health disorder, go to your doctor and ask for more information and a more specific referral if necessary.


If you think your child is feeling anxious or depressed, and you or they need someone to talk to, I am here to help. Please get in touch today if you’d like help with teaching your child to find a way to be at peace with themselves and with the world. And remember, you don’t have to do this alone.