We know that mental health matters to parents and families – whenever we share links to information about mental health they’re very popular, lots of people click on them for the information. Right now there is a great deal of concern about what effect the coronavirus and lockdown is having on people’s mental health (and any lasting effect it will have in the future).
So let’s talk about Coronavirus and mental health.
Everyone has mental health – the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has an animation about this for 11 – 14 year olds. This is a worrying time for everyone, the Coronavirus dominates our TVs, radios, newspapers and online platforms in various ways. It has changed our daily lives, affecting where we go (and how often), how many people we can meet and limiting both the number of children in school and mourners at funerals. Many parents are anxious and however hard we try to behave as normally as possible, children tend to pick up on the subtle clues that their parents are worried.
Our role as parents involves protecting our children as much as we can and keeping them safe. It seems odd to talk directly with our children and young people about an invisible threat which has hospitalised and killed so many in our country and around the world – you’d think that could scare them even more! But according to Young Minds it’s best to talk with children calmly and honestly about the situation; you don’t have to have all the answers and their site has ten tips from their Parents’ Helpline to help you do this. The NSPCC has advice for talking with children about difficult topics in general and specific Coronavirus advice and support for parents and carers. Family Lives’ guide “Supporting your teen’s mental health during the Covid-19 outbreak” has lots of advice for parents. Public Health England has published guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young peoples’ mental health and emotional wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic (including an easy-read guide). There is also a free, short online course with practical ways to help young people manage their mood and maintain healthy habits during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Young people who were due to sit exams before moving on to college, university or work may experience a sense of loss. BBC Bitesize has an article for parents and carers with six ways to help them come to terms with Lockdown Loss. Papyrus also has advice to help young people get through this time (What Next?).
What about parents whose mental health is affected by Coronavirus? Parents are often juggling many roles and tasks during lockdown – working (from home whee possible), supervising children’s schoolwork, delivering shopping to grandparents etc etc. It’s important to take care of ourselves too! Several organisations have advice and information for adults, including the Mental Health Foundation (Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak), MIND (Coronavirus and your wellbeing) and the Blurt Foundation (Coronavirus and your mental health and lots of information at their Coronavirus Helpful Hub). Each day a new episode is posted to the Heads Together 60 second support series, sharing tips and ideas from their charity partners to help you look after your wellbeing (and that of those around you). The NHS’ Every Mind Matters site is available to all and has information about Coronavirus and wellbeing.
Sometimes people are embarrassed to talk about mental health – and if they do talk about it, they often play down how they’re feeling. This is Mental Health Awareness Week (18th – 24th May), so it’s a good time to start a conversation with those around us.
Mental Health Awareness Week has been taking place in the UK since 2001, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation. It’s a week to raise awareness of mental health and promote good mental health for everyone.This year it’s happening during a global pandemic, bringing challenges and opportunities. The theme for 2020 is Kindness (a change to the originally planned theme of Sleep).
Why is Kindness the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week? The Mental Health Foundation says that kindness “strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity.” Helping others can have a positive effect on your own mental health and wellbeing. People often talk about how doing something good for someone else makes them feel good (eg: “warm and fuzzy inside”).; apparently there is some evidence that helping others promotes changes in the brain linked with happiness. One act of kindness can lead to others – you hear of people “paying it forward” when someone does something kind for a person and wants nothing in return but the recipient can do something kind for someone else in the future. You can read more about this in their Kindness Research Briefing.
The Coronavirus outbreak has prompted many acts of kindness – ringing relatives and neighbours to ask how they are, donating food to foodbanks and other organisations, and of course raising money for charity. If you’re wondering what you (and your family) could do, the Mental Health Foundation has a pack with ideas and inspiration for ways to practice kindness while observing lockdown rules. There are FAQs, resources and kindness stories on their site too. The Mentally Healthy Schools 7 days of kindness calendar was produced for Mental Health Awareness Week but can be used any time. It encourages children to do two acts of kindness each day – one for someone else and one for themselves. It’s important to be kind to ourselves too at this time – take a look at the Blurt Foundation’s “11 Ways We Can Practice Self-Kindness”.
This post has hopefully encouraged you to talk about mental health. If you’d like to talk with other parents about family life at this unusual time (or about the weather or anything else), we are hosting an Online Coffee and Chat on 28th May – just email us <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you’d like to join in!
Finally, if you or your child is struggling, do ask for help – the following organisations may be useful and most have helplines or text services:
Before you go – why not take a look at our post filled with Coronavirus Information (all sorts and recently updated with new links)?
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