Our economic, political, and environmental climates have historically had a significant impact on our mental health. During major events, such as a recession, there is not only an immediate increase in reports of mental illness but also residually, in the wake of these events and during continued periods of uncertainty. Currently, as our routines are drastically changing with lockdowns and fear of the international coronavirus pandemic continue, the UK is expected to experience a much greater increase in mental ill health.
These circumstances also affect young people. We must remember that they are not necessarily as well-equipped to deal with the issues facing them nor will a decline in their mental health manifest itself as a response we easily recognise. While children and young adults in our lives tend to take their behavioural cues from adults, they can act out in unusual ways. They are also susceptible to physical manifestations of anxiety and other mental health issues, such as stomach aches and, in younger children, wetting the bed.
For some children, spending a larger amount of time at home may be enjoyable, while others will become frustrated. In an early report on the effects of COVID-19 on young adult’s mental health, a third have expressed their mental health has become significantly worse. Each child will be dealing with current events in different ways, as well as being exposed to information in varying amounts, which is why they may not necessarily appear to be struggling at all.
In addition, social media also gives young adults a perspective on the world unique to our own. They are socialising and consuming news in ways different to us, influencing their personalities and mental states. Acknowledging this difference is key. It often requires the adult to compromise their understanding and be the one to reach out. Children are just as likely to have strong emotional responses to news coverage, causing them to feel anxious when reading out outbreaks and cases online. You may not be aware of how much coverage of the virus they are actually experiencing.
To ensure you are creating a healthy environment for your children, one that allows for the natural and positive support for their mental health, consider the following:
Allow them to communicate
Whether or not your children choose to disclose their thoughts and feelings is their prerogative. However, it is important that they know that, should they want to talk, they are able to do both safely and without judgement. Listening is important and may require you to pay attention to more than words. Changes in behaviour and physical wellbeing can also be indicative of mental health issues.
Lead By Example
The young people in your life, whether you are conscious of it or not, will be learning from your words, actions, and emotions. How you choose to deal with your environment will influence their choices. This means that you bear a certain amount of responsibility to set a positive example for the good of their mental health. Be sure to stay active and engage yourself in activities they may potentially be able to get involved in.
Eat, Sleep, Exercise
Our mental wellbeing is directly influenced by our physical wellbeing. With a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and a full and regular sleep routine, our mental health is likely to improve. While it is understandably difficult during periods of lockdown and with business closures, ensuring that your children continue to eat, sleep, and exercise well is a crucial foundation for their wellbeing.
There are many, much deeper issues that can occur and, especially during such difficult times, it is important that, should we feel the need, we seek help. If you would like to discuss your concerns or personal circumstances, I am available to offer support.