Charity supports Children’s Mental Health Week
With Children’s Mental Health Week running from 4th-10th February, 2019, Caudwell Children, one on the UK’s leading children’s charities, is highlighting the issue of mental health amongst disabled children and young people.
The charity is endorsing the views of Place2Be, organisers of Children’s Mental Health Week, by shining a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
With increasing numbers of disabled children being dually diagnosed with a mental health disorder, the health and wellbeing of those the charity supports is becoming a sizeable issue.
It’s commonly recognised that having a physical or learning disability may increase the chances of developing a mental health condition.
Although not fully understood some theorists point to environmental factors and social experiences as the possible cause of mental disorders amongst disabled children.
A physical disability may lead to social isolation as it can prevent some people from leaving the house. It can also cause a lack of independence, especially if the disability requires the care of family member or a professional.
This can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression, something also experienced by those with a mental disorder who are often socially excluded. A staggering 8 in 10 children with a learning disability are also bullied, whilst UK researchers have found that half of families with a disabled child live in poverty.
One UK study in 2007 found that 54% of their sample of 1023 people with learning disabilities had a mental health problem, an alarmingly high percentage. (Cooper, S.A., Smiley, E., Morrison, J., Williamson, A., & Allan, L. (2007). Mental ill-health in adults with intellectual disabilities: Prevalence and associated factors. The British Journal of Psychiatry.)
Even more worrying, in the same study, is that 75% of those with a mental health condition start developing it before the age of 18 whilst 7 in 10 of them haven’t had sufficient help at an early age!
While social media platforms can have their benefits it’s also been argued that using them too frequently can make you feel increasingly unhappy and isolated.
The constant barrage of perfectly filtered photos that appear on social media are bound to knock many people’s self-esteem, while obsessively checking your Twitter feed just before bed could be contributing towards poor quality of sleep.
To see the reality beyond the perfect world of the sanitized selfies that swamp social media, Caudwell Children is encouraging followers to post two images of themselves on all platforms.
The first image should be a positive picture of yourself, the type commonly associated with social media, i.e. on holiday by the swimming pool, whilst the second picture, the reality, could feature endless queues at the airport.
As Dr Matt Johnson, Director of Clinical Services & Research at Caudwell Children, explained: “Social media usage is often highlighted as exerting a negative effect on children and young people’s mental health.
“However, whilst there is evidence of an association between the two, the direction of this relationship is unclear.
“In the digital age, children and young people need to be educated and supported to use social media safely and positively to minimise any risks to their mental health and emotional wellbeing whilst maximising the social, educational and leisure benefits of new technologies.
“Parents also have a key role to play in supporting their children to develop social media skills by ensuring they are accessing appropriate content, conducting themselves in a safe, appropriate and respectful manner online and keeping an eye on who they are in contact with.”
The theme for Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 is ‘Health: Inside and Out’ and Caudwell Children is asking everyone to think about how they look after their bodies and minds.
The organisers are focusing on the fact that our bodies and minds are very closely linked, so the things we do to improve our physical well-being can also improve our mental wellbeing.
Parents and carers of disabled children can play a very important role in their child’s health and Place2Be has produced a number of top tips to make people more aware of the relationship between mind and body.
They’re asking adults to talk to children about what they can do to look after their body and mind. This can be from walking the dog to turning their phone off before bed.
They say praising a child for the things they do to look after themselves will also help children to see healthy living in a positive light.
It’s also important to remind children that there is no such thing as the perfect body, and that they shouldn’t compare themselves to others, and that it’s important to remember everyone’s bodies and minds are different.
Place2Be recognise that family life can be very busy and stressful at times and they’re advising parents to simply cook a meal together, sit down to eat together, or go for a walk together, as it’s a great way to stay connected and have fun.
They also recommend that children take the time to look at something healthy that they enjoy doing and try to consider how it makes them feel.
This could be eating fruit or simply reading a relaxing story at bedtime. They can then be asked about how it makes them feel; excited, full of energy, calm and why they think they feel like that.
Canadian researchers have looked at chronic disability in children and found that this age group is significantly more at risk of mental health conditions, finding them to have three times the risk of developing a disorder, compared to their non-disabled peers.
That’s why Caudwell Children is delighted to support Children’s Mental Health Week 2019.
You can find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week here.
You can find out how Caudwell Children could support your child here.