From February 5 to February 11, the United Kingdom celebrates Children’s Mental Health Week. For many people out there, the idea of another few days dedicated to mental health might seem worthless. Yet, the reality is that even with all the progress that has been made to raise awareness of mental health, the mental health of children can go almost entirely overlooked.
Children’s mental health is misunderstood, which is why a week such as this one is so important. Too often, the symptoms of mental illness in children are brushed off as being down to puberty, or changing circumstances, or they are advised that they will simply grow out of it. Of course, for many people that might be the case, but for others, a bout of extreme sadness in a child might be a sign of depression that should not be ignored.
Many people hold a connotation of children with happiness, believing that it is in many ways the easiest time of our lives. And yet, according to research, 10 per cent of school children have a diagnosable mental illness. Whilst this is shocking, it is almost unsurprising. Considering the circumstances of today’s education system, the rigorous testing from such a young age, the pressures that continue throughout all of high school, and the tendency for younger people to bully or tease their classmates, it is understandable how their mental health would be affected.
Despite this, research into children’s mental health is sparse. Worryingly, only £26m a year is spent on researching children and young people’s studies, despite 75 per cent of mental illness starting before the age of 18. This makes it all the more crucial that we raise awareness of the issue, through communication and learning about the subject.
This week is ran by Place2Be, the United Kingdom’s leading children’s mental health charity, who provide expert training to teachers, and run events throughout primary and secondary schools which aim to help children develop the skills to cope with issues such as bullying, bereavement, and trauma. Throughout the week, many schools up and down the United Kingdom have opted to get involved with Children’s Mental Health Week, by encouraging their pupils to be happy with themselves, and by making mental health a more approachable subject to the children.
Here in Edinburgh, Tynecastle High School in Dalry have been invited to a singing workshop on Monday February 5 where the music will revolve around the theme of ‘Being Ourselves’. Meanwhile, in Forthview Primary School, Monday saw the launch of their Book Launch Event entitled: ‘No Worries – My Friends & Me’ about a group of children going on school camp – written by parents supported by Place2Be and Publisher.
Even The Duchess of Cambridge has shown support for the week by releasing a recorded message. Her message highlights the importance of childhood and she recognises that even though circumstances are often hard to change, the adults in a child’s life should band together to give a child the “emotional strength” in order for a child to thrive. She adds, “schools and families occupy a special position at the heart of every child’s life and that is why I am proud to support Place2Be’s work this Children’s Mental Health Week.”
Dedicating even a week to such an important cause will make a difference to the lives of young people affected by mental health problems across the United Kingdom. Thanks to donations, more events can be planned to raise awareness and more money can be invested in research. But most of all, by opening conversations about how a child’s life is not always all fun and games, we begin to acknowledge how ill mental health can affect anyone, of any age, and that we must take this seriously.
image: meditations via Pixabay