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Mental health

There has been increasing media coverage of mental health issues and especially those experienced by teenagers. Being confined is likely to be a huge issue. We know that developing independence and freedom is one of the central parts of being a teenager, and exploration and experimentation, therefore, are actions that follow. However, how teenagers see the world is also impacted by neural development. This article published in The Guardian in 2015 on ‘The Secrets of the Teenage Brain’ is an excellent summary of some of the observations and questions parents have.

We try to get pupils to understand mental health as a spectrum i.e. mental health is not a term just to describe negative ways of thinking and feeling but can also be positive. Think of a spectrum from -10 to +10 with 0 being ok. Children need to understand what they can do to give themselves a ‘+’ figure and how to prevent or deal with a ‘-‘ score. Any score below -6 would indicate a need to have professional intervention. The charity Mind describes mental health as

“Good mental health means being generally able to think, feel and react in the ways that you need and want to live your life. But if you go through a period of poor mental health you might find the ways you're frequently thinking, feeling or reacting become difficult, or even impossible, to cope with. This can feel just as bad as a physical illness, or even worse.”

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

However, negative mental health is a specific aspect of all of our development but in teenagers it can be impacted by a number of factors. Barnardo’s identify the reasons below as perhaps being more pertinent during lockdown.

Children and young people have told us the main reasons that they are struggling with lockdown are: 

  • Missing social contact – Imagine seeing your friends every day and then suddenly not being able to spend time with the people that are closest to you. 
  • Missing peer support – Because young people are more likely to talk about their problems with other young people, they may feel like their support network has been taken away.
  • Lack of personal space – Young people with younger siblings might feel relied upon to pick up some of the caring duties and keep younger children occupied, which can make teenagers feel stuck with no personal space.
  • Getting away from family arguments – The stress of lockdown is tough for parents as well, who may be feeling more stressed or arguing more. This may increase young people’s need to get out of the house.
  • Too much focus on school work – As well as lessons, at school teenagers also have time to run around, be creative, hang out with their friends, laugh and joke with teachers. All of the things that make school enjoyable, fun and engaging are not there when they’re schooled from home. Letting your teenager have regular fun breaks and enabling them to connect with friends will help.
  • Missing out – It’s hard to comply if other young people are breaking the rules and meeting up. The summer is what they have been waiting for: the end of school, their prom, long weeks of freedom. Having all of it cancelled and having nothing to replace it can be really difficult for them to accept.
  • Not affected – Young people may feel like COVID-19 isn’t going to affect them. They are young and not likely to get seriously ill, so it’s hard to understand the wider societal impacts that breaking the lockdown rules might have.
  • Young love – Teenage relationships can feel intense and like they’re the most important thing in the world, but can also often feel fragile and can be quite a rollercoaster. This can be a reason for young people to feel they need to escape the house. 
  • Feeling anxious and stressed – Everyone’s mental health will be affected by changes in routine, sleep, exercise, food patterns and more, and teenagers may be leaving the house to stop themselves lashing out or getting upset.
  • Feeling scared and threatened – Some teenagers may be being exploited by peers or adults outside of the home and may be scared of what will happen if they don’t go and meet them. Some may feel scared and threatened within their homes – there may be domestic abuse or child abuse occurring – and are escaping harm by leaving the house.

(taken from and found on the link in additional resources below)

Tackling mental health should take two forms:

The websites below have been chosen as offering accessible advice and resources so please do look through them. A short summary of each is provided.

Recommended resources and websites: POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH

NHS/CAMHS - learn more

The NHS/CAMHS website has a whole host of topics along with exercises and resources from mental health charities and it is a superb one-stop page.

Stem4 - learn more

Stem4 is a charity that began in 2011 and this website has some excellent summaries but the founder, Dr Nihara Krause, has helped develop a number of apps (Calm Harm, Clear Fear and Combined Minds) and all are available free from the app store.

Recommended resources and websites: MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS

Barnardo's - learn more

Barnardo’s has produced a summary of potential issues and tips and this one-page read can be found on the link above. It is an accessible blog.

They also provide support services and an initial exploration of those can be found here.

Young Minds - learn more

Young Minds is a charity whose focus is on young people and their mission of “all young minds are supported and empowered” is supported by a website full of ideas and resources. This section presents different ways in which help can be found.

Mind - learn more

Mind has more detail on mental health problems and the link above highlights the range of mental health problems, the drugs and treatment available as well as sources of support.

Mental Health Foundation - learn more

Mental Health Foundation was established in 1949 and their main vision is good mental health for all but they also focus on prevention of negative mental states. Their resource section is extensive with an excellent A-Z, podcasts and advice and can be accessed by clicking on the link above. Their regular newsletter sent via email is also easy to skim and access.