A Parent’s Guide to…. Mental Health

Today (October 10th) is World Mental Health Day, reminding us that mental health is a priority every dayBut what exactly is mental health? When we hear the word mental health, we often think about mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. However, we all have mental health and it includes our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing. This mean it affects how we think, feel and act. 

Similar to physical health, you and your family will have times when your mental health is good and times when its not as good and that’s ok.  

A recent survey found that only 36% of parents felt confident in talking to their children about their mental health and wellbeing. This blog will provide you with small tips that you can easily incorporate into family life to help start that conversation. 

Spotting the signs

You may be thinking if I’m not a mental health professional… how am I supposed to recognise if someone I care about is suffering with their mental health? 

The good news is, you don’t have to be. There are some simple signs we can look out for, which can help us to work out if our partner, child, parent, friend or colleague is struggling. 

  • Long lasting periods of sadness or irritability, which is unusual for that individual. 
  • Extreme highs and lows in their mood, for no obvious reason. 
  • Excessive fear worry or anxiety about situations or things which they aren’t normally that bothered about. 
  • They isolate themselves and avoid social situations, which is out of character or more than they would ordinarily. 
  • A dramatic change in eating or sleeping habits. 

Just remember that these are only signs and not a diagnosis of a mental health issue, but a way of opening up a conversation with that person to let them know that you have seen a change in them and are looking out for them. 

 

5 ways to wellbeing

The Foresight’s Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project have developed the ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’ which are a set of evidencedbased actions, from worldwide research, that can help us all improve our wellbeing. This is great for us adults to implement, as families together or even empower our children to do them.  

1. Connect

As human beings we are social creatures, so keeping connected plays an important part in our wellbeing. Iprovides us with a support network, reduces stress and helps build a sense of belonging and self-worth. Try arranging a fixed time to spend together as a family such as eating dinner together or playing a game. Yet, now more than ever we use technology to maintain our relationshipsHowever, disconnecting from the screen is also as important. A ‘digital curfew’ of one- or two-hours before bed will help your child fall asleep faster and improve their sleep quality and wellbeing.  

2. Be active. 

Did you know that getting even just a bit more active on a regular basis can have a positive effect on our mood? Why not try a 10 minute walk, a game of frisbee or challenge someone to a game of swing ball. Anything which gets you moving! Personally, I love putting on one of my favourite songs and dancing around the house like no-one is watching. The knockon effect is that you might sleep better and feel less stressed or anxious because exercise releases the ‘happy’ hormone – Endorphins. Sounds like a win win to me! 

3. Take notice. 

Family life can be hectic but paying attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. Make space in the day with your child to go through all your senses – what can you see, smell, feelhear and touch. This only takes 1 minute and can be done on a walk to school, in the carwhen eating dinner or anytimeTaking notice also includes your thoughts and feelings. Create an opportunity in the day that opens up a safe space to listen to how your child is feeling and their concerns.  

 

4. Give.

Just one simple act of giving can help to lift your spirits. As a family, it is a great way of helping you all feel connected amongst yourselves and with the wider community. You can try making cards, as a family, for friends who are isolating or ill. You could consider giving up one of your birthdays and fundraising for a charity of your choice. You can also role model these behaviours and encourage your children to do one small thing a week. Other ideas can be simply smiling at a stranger or volunteering your time at a food bank or a care home. You can even make a chart and see who gives more in a week and see which family member wins! The more you give, the better your overall wellbeing. 

 

5. Keep learning.

After lockdown, you may feel that you have exhausted all the new skills you could want to learn (banana bread, hairdressing and Tik-Tok) but there are lots of ways to bring learning into your family’s life. Set challenges for your families, work on puzzles together or try different recipes each month (we have so many yummy recipes to try out)Maybe even take some time today to continue reading about mental health and talking to your family about itLearning new skills can help you and your family’s self-esteem and sense of purpose while helping you to connect with others.  

Over the past few years, we have been having many more conversations around mental health. The stigma has slowly started to reduce, people are feeling more confident to talk about it however there is still a long way to go5 million pounds has been invested into mental health community projects which is a step forwardYou can approach a trusted health professional and discuss options, such as talking therapies, that may help you or your family cope with mental health better. 

We hope you now have a better insight into mental health and how to empower your family to look after your mental health.  

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