February 1st – 7th Is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week
Now in its seventh year, Children’s Mental Health Week was launched by Place2Be in 2015, to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
Considering our current global status, the mental health of our children and young people has never been of more important.
The aim of this awareness week is to encourage more people than ever to get involved and spread the word about how vital our attention to, and treatment of, children’s mental health is.
This year, the week’s theme is: Express Yourself.
The theme for this year has been chosen to help children, and their parents and carers, explore ways to share feelings, thoughts, and ideas, through creativity. This could be through art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography and film, and doing activities that make you feel good.
It’s important to remember that being able to express yourself is not about being the best at something or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are, and how you see the world, that can help you feel good about yourself.
Around three children in every primary school class have a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement. Whether you’re someone who works with children, a parent or carer, or are passionate about spreading the word, it’s time to express yourself.
One of our Fortis therapists, who works actively in the school environment and with young people and children in therapy sessions has some great ideas you can do at home…
“Children themselves are the experts really, however, you can help them talk and play through their feelings by having a dedicated room or area within which they feel safe and can express themselves. Play is a huge element, and play therapy along with methods such as CBT can work wonders. I have a few tried and tested games and activities which you can try at home or with classmates…
- UNO – This game is a wonderful distraction if a child is getting heightened during a session of talk.
- Sensory boxes – These are something I place in every classroom, not just the therapy room or space. The idea is the child can go to this box and use it to bring themselves down from a heightened state. Sensory boxes hep with mindfulness, taking them away from the situation that has caused them to heighten in the first place and help them focus.
- Play – No matter what age you are, you know how to play. Emotions can really lend themselves to play – you can explore each emotion through play.
- Journaling – This is a great way of creatively expressing yourself, emptying your thoughts and feelings onto paper, taking them out of your head. Whether what they write down is a letter, poem, a rap – however the child feels comfortable writing, let them get all of those feelings out of their head. So often, it is clear that is what they need. Just to get it out.
- Stories – Writing stories where they are in fact one of the characters, and situations and experiences happen to the character rather than to themselves, often it makes it easier for the child to tell a story rather than an actual experience. Especially in front of others, it allows them to wear a mask of sorts and not directly reveal their story.
- Gauging – Learning to gauge where you are on a scale of 0 to 10, and clarifying what each number represents is hugely effective. This is a good tool to deal with anger. They can see they are going up the scale and gradually communicate how they feel because each number has a clear meaning.
Children often struggle to identify what mood they’re feeling, so often they don’t know how to do it. A creative outlet is often a good way to introduce expressing themselves.
- Puppets – these are really amazing for storytelling and recalling
- Letter writing – Pen a letter to a time period that was hard or write to your younger self – what would you tell yourself then in that moment?
- Envelopes – write down issues and troubling thoughts, put them in an envelope, seal it and throw it away… or shred it!
- Movement – Dancing or yoga is a lovely way to let children express themselves. Yoga in particular addresses mindfulness and helps you deal with the ‘what ifs’ through controlled breathing. Sit with what’s going on in your head, feel that pain and emotion, and breathe it out.
With lockdown, home schooling, working from home – all of these things that are causing stress and worry – continue for longer than we’d hoped, remember help is always available if you need it. Fortis can help with therapy sessions, and can make sure you speak with a qualified therapist within a week – more often than not within a few days. We can carry these sessions out in person, or via telephone or video calls.
On our website there are lots of useful resources that can help you with what we have talked about above as well as more blogs to read. Click here to discover it all.
We also have our Funky Fortis Society group on Facebook (which will be relaunching with a new name and branding on February 2nd via a live Q&A at 7pm), a community where anyone can find advice, support and a friendly ear; The Westerly Club, a men’s mental health community which again offers a safe space for men to find a friendly ear and a shoulder to lean on as well as expert advice and weekly talks; and, Fortis Therapy & Training Facebook page – home of The Self-Care Session, live talks discussing everything to do with self-care and wellbeing.
Further Children’s Mental Health Week resources for you at home, and schools, can be found here.