Supporting Children’s Mental Health

You might be aware that it’s Children’s Mental Health Week this week and if you know anything about us here at The Outdoors Group, you’ll probably know that we put wellbeing and mental health (of both the young people we work with and our colleagues) as one of our absolute priorities. In particular, when it comes to learning, we believe that unless a child’s emotional needs are met, they won’t be in a position where they are able to engage in learning or education. We believe that meeting their social and emotional needs is always the priority, before we move onto anything else. This year, the theme of this week is ‘My Voice Matters’ so we thought we’d have a look at some ways we can support the children and young people in our lives with their mental health.

Give them space to talk

Struggling with your mental heath, regardless of your age or situation, can be agonisingly lonely so it’s really important to let the young people in your life know that it’s OK (and in fact, that it’s good!) to talk. Try and give them the space and time they need to have the courage to talk to you, or help them identify a trusted friend, teacher, or family member with who they can talk. Often it takes time for people to feel courageous enough to open up so don’t rush them, be patient and let them know you’re there and ready to give them attention and your ears if they need it. If they’re not comfortable talking to someone they know in their lives, they could access a service like ‘Shout’ to find someone to talk to by texting SHOUT to 85258 for free. 

Encourage Writing

Perhaps they don’t want to talk to anyone but still need a way to work through the thoughts and feelings they’re having. In which case, starting a written journal might be a great help. There’s something about putting pen to paper that really helps the mind process what it’s struggling with and can be an incredibly cathartic and therapeutic activity. It can help break negative cycles of thoughts and encourage people to identify what they’re feeling and reasons why. Why not buy them a nice notebook and pen and encourage them to use it, perhaps even share some resources about the mental health benefits of journalling with them.

Remind them to move their bodies

When you’re having a rough time with your mental health, it can be really easy to forget to do the things that make you feel good. Whether that’s going for a walk or run, doing some yoga or group sports, dancing, creating art, going out with friends, it’s easy to just want to shut down and hibernate when the dark days hit. But we know that moving our bodies and doing things that bring us joy, can have a massive impact on our mental health. So try and encourage the young people in your life to keep doing the things they love, even if not to the same extent as they usually do. Even a few minutes outside, or getting up and moving, will have a massive impact.

Normalise talking about mental health

It’s much more acceptable to talk about our mental health in the same way we do physical health these days but there is still a way to go to completely remove the stigma around it. Try to make a point of being open with the young people in your lives about your own mental health journey and talk about it as you would talk about having a cold or a nail infection. Normalising talking about our feelings and knowing that all feelings and thoughts are valid, can have a massive impact on the young people around us. It helps them feel less alone and more likely to reach out for support if they need it.

Where statistics surrounding mental health for children and young people can make for some fairly grim reading, it’s more important than ever for the young people in our lives to know that it’s ok to not be ok, that’s it’s ok to talk, that what they’re feeling matters. If you do anything this week, try and have a conversation with a young person about mental health. It could make the world of difference, even if you never find out the impact it’s had. It could save a life.

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Wednesday 7th February 2024

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