Talking about our mental health can be awkward – but it doesn’t need to be. In East Sussex young people are challenging the stigmas around mental health.
And with Time To Talk Day happening today (Thursday, February 6), those young people are offering their ‘top ten tips’ to help parents and carers support children’s mental health.
Getting the conversations going
Indya-Jayne Wardle was on the East Sussex Youth Cabinet which has launched a campaign not only to get young people talking about a range of issues such as anxiety, self-esteem, and stress, but also to give parents and carers pointers on how to have those conversations with their children.
Those young people have also played a key role in developing guidance for schools on supporting pupils with mental health issues, and in a new project being run by the NHS and the county council in East Sussex to set up mental health support teams to help schools.
Indya told Your East Sussex: “People have often found it difficult to talk about problems they are dealing with, but thankfully that is changing. We know it’s an important subject for young people in East Sussex and we wanted to do our bit to tackle it.”
Working with other young people’s groups in the county, including the Seaford Youth Forum, the Youth Cabinet carried out a survey of almost 1,000 people and have now used the results to put together a guide for adults.
Indya said: “Our guide includes simple tips such as being open and honest, picking the right time to talk, trusting children to know their own mental health and to ‘listen first, talk later’. It also reminds parents and carers to look after their own mental wellbeing.”
The tips appear on posters and postcards that will be distributed around the county.
Indya added: “Talking to parents, carers and young people we found parents often over-estimated how effective they were at having open and honest conversations with their children and also how likely their child was to talk to them about any issues. Many thought their children would talk to them first if they felt anxious or distressed but actually young people said they would be more likely to speak to friends, siblings or teachers.”
She said the team that had put together the tips hoped it would play a key role in making conversations about mental health problems easier. “Growing up throws all sorts of challenges at you as everybody knows. Talking about problems you face with someone who cares about you might not solve the issues but it’s a huge step in the right direction. We really hope these tips will help adults if they are finding it difficult to talk to their children. Getting the conversation going can be the biggest hurdle.
Not a sign of weakness
“Thursday might be Time to Talk Day” Indya added, “but we want every day to be Time to Talk Day! Talking about your problems, your worries and things getting on top of you is not a sign of weakness and should not be embarrassing or awkward. We all need help and support at some stage – we really hope this will help get those conversations going.”
For more information about Time to Talk Day visit: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day
The Top Ten Tips guide for parents in full
(1) For your child’s mental wellbeing – Find the right time and place to talk
After eating, during meal times, just before bed
When your child is upset, don’t force conversations; find another time
Try talking without direct eye contact; in the car, dog walking or doing the dishes
(2) Be brave and start the conversation
Be open and honest
Don’t pressurise or confront
Be brave and start the conversation
(3) Respect is vital and so are boundaries
Don’t share their feelings with others, unless your child agrees
(4) Trust your child to know their own mental well-being
Don’t betray their trust if they tell you about their feelings
It’s natural to worry, but try not to ‘helicopter’ around your child
Believe them if they tell you they are stressed
(5) Dealing with your child’s mental wellbeing, access to quality information could help
Find out the difference between mental health and wellbeing
Use helpful resources from www.openforparents.co.uk
(6) Look after your own mental well-being
Look after yourself; it’s hard to support others if you are feeling overwhelmed
Find another trusted adult who your child is comfortable to talk to
Be a role model by looking after your own mental wellbeing
Be honest about your struggles and how you got through difficult times
(7) Trust your instincts about your child’s feelings
Regularly check in and ask how they are; the effort is always appreciated
If you see sudden changes in their mood or behaviour, trust your instincts and reach out to them
Trust your instinct and ask for help if you think they are unsafe
(8) When talking about your child’s mental well-being; listen first, talk later
It’s often best just to listen: you don’t need every answer
Hear everything and give them time to finish talking
Silence is ok; listening without answering can be positive
(9) Social media is complicated and not all bad
Agree everyone’s healthy online boundaries and stick to them
When monitoring use, remember it’s not all bad; strictness can be a barrier to honesty
Learn how and why your child uses social media
Social media changes fast and they are the best teachers
Have agreed tech-free time when you all put down gadgets
(10) For your child’s mental well-being: there is no one perfect solution; try different approaches
There is no simple fix to helping your child’s well-being
Keep trying alternatives and different strategies