7 STEPS Mental Health How to Support our Young People !
As a psychotherapist there is no doubt in my mind that young people’s mental health is a worrying and growing problem. Recent statistics are telling us that suicide is now the biggest killer of young people in the UK and the figure is increasing year on year. So what are the causes? Well, whilst social media is often seen as a factor, there are other major risk factors involved to; from childhood abuse, trauma, neglect, parental mental health difficulties, bereavement, loneliness and many more. As parents we need to be vigilant in tuning in to our young people and making ourselves available to them. Warning signs that things are not ok will vary, but a common list could look like this…
Excessive or very extreme mood swings
Disengagement from social life as well as family
Significant change in sleeping or eating habits
Obsessing over looks or weight
Abuse of substances
Multiple physical ailments without causes
Inability to carry out daily activities
Lack of self-care (particularly any change in this)
The list can look daunting, but as parents there is so much we can do.
/01 CHAT IT THROUGH
Try to talk – be curious and show acceptance and empathy for their situation. It’s going to be important to try and hide some of your own frustration as young people can close up if they see grown ups panic. That said, it is ok to show them that you are concerned.
/02 BE KIND
Look for those moments when they seem most receptive and give them some gentle encouragement and affirmation.
/03 OFFER CHOICES
It is important that young people feel purposeful, powerful and in control. Try and get them to come up with two small things to do each day. One to be an act of self-care (could be a bubble bath, a short walk outside, talking to a friend etc.) the other a small task (½ hour of school work, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming their bedroom) to give them a small sense of achievement. Remember it is important that you let them choose!
/04 DON’T HANG AROUND
If you are concerned about their mood, eating/weight loss, self harming or substance abuse then make them an appointment with the Doctor and help them find the support they need.
/05 CHAT WITH THEIR FRIENDS
Young people may struggle to articulate their thoughts and emotions to adults and you may find their friends are aware of other surrounding circumstances.
/06 GATHER SUPPORT
You don’t have to do this alone. If they are struggling to speak with you, look for other adults, perhaps a relative, youth worker, teacher or family friend, who they may find it easier to open up to. There are also some fantastic online resources that can help young people feel less isolated in their struggle.
God cares about the mental health of our young people and when we pray not one falls away unheard. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have and can transform any situation.
Whatever you are facing with your young person, now or in the future, take each day at a time and know that you are not alone! As it says in; Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.
Big hugs, Emma Browne. x