THIS week in her advice column, assistant direct of the NSPCC for Yorkshire and the North East, Debra Radford, talks about family mental health.

She said: “Last Sunday marked World Mental Health day. My family and I spent the day doing what we normally do on a Sunday but I was conscious, because of the awareness day, to take the time to appreciate our resilience.

"2021 has been just as challenging as 2020 but as a family we have worked hard to be there for each other through it all. And it was hard work.

"Good mental health isn’t just the absence of a diagnosable condition, it takes effort to realise what works for you in building your support and emotional resilience.

"At the NSPCC and particularly from contacts to our Childline service we know growing up isn’t easy – especially after the past couple of years. No matter how strong and adaptable children are, stress can take a toll, so they shouldn’t have to cope alone.

"We know that right now many children are not coping. They’re dealing with pressures no child should have to face – burdened with worries no child should have to carry.

"Before the coronavirus pandemic we knew that the levels of need and risk factors surrounding child abuse were rising. And we know that the impact of Covid-19 will exacerbate the situation.

"This generation of children is now facing a unique and worrying set of challenges — facing unfamiliar school environments, fractured relationships, increased family pressures, less access to their support networks, and a weakening of safeguarding measures.

"But it is important to remember the positives or strengths too, while the pandemic has been immensely challenging it’s also helped us learn valuable lessons.

"Our services and practitioners quickly adapted so they could still be there for children — embracing technology and different ways of working.

Our Childline service listens to and supports children, and is a safe space to turn to, whatever difficulties they face – big and small. Whatever life throws at them, we’re here to show children that they matter, that we understand, and they’re not alone. In light of World Mental Health Day, I felt this would be a good opportunity to highlight one of the more popular areas of the Childline website that’s really useful for anyone in need of a little guidance or a few tips.

The Calm Zone offers activities, tools, games, videos and breathing exercises that are easy to understand and can help improve a child’s mental health. As with all mental health issues, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ remedy, so our experts have included a huge variety of techniques and tips for children and young people to experiment with and see what works best for them.

One great tip is for young people to write a letter or note to themselves on a day they’re feeling happy, and save it to look back at when they’re feeling low or anxious – it reminds them that they do have better days, and can include details of what they can do to feel that way again. Other advice can be as simple as changing your surroundings to change the way you feel – whether that’s moving from one room to look out of the window in another, or going for a walk in the fresh air, even just a few minutes in another space can be enough to improve their mood.

If you’re worried about a young person, the first step is asking if you can help. If they’re happy to talk to you, that’s great, but you can always explore the Childline website and Calm Zone with them, and our Childline counsellors are always here to support. Whatever’s going on in the world, whatever they’re facing, we’re here for children.

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