1 in 10 young people will experience a mental health problem. That’s three students in the average classroom, so mental health problems are likely to affect your child, whether they experience it or their friends do.
Talking openly about mental health with your child is really important: if they’re aware of what mental health problems are, it will help them to understand their own wellbeing and what’s going on with their family and friends. It can be difficult to know where to start, but being open about mental health will really pay off in the future!
- Find ways to talk about mental health that work for you. If you have a friend or family member who has a mental health problem, talking about them might be a good way of starting a dialogue, or you could discuss celebrities who are talking about their mental health in the media.
- It can be easier to talk side-by-side, rather than face-to-face. Talking when shopping, cooking or driving can take the pressure off – you don’t have to have a formal sit-down.
- Talking about mental health problems, even relatively sensitive subjects like self-harm and suicide won’t make them any more likely to experience it. Actually’ being open about it might mean they feel comfortable asking for help sooner.
If your child has been diagnosed with a mental health problem, it can be daunting to know what to do next. But you don’t have to fix the problem – just being there for them will be a big help.
- It may be helpful to do some research on the condition that they’re experiencing, so you can better understand what they’re going through. We have some information and personal stories here.
- Be patient: there are no quick fixes when it comes to mental health. You’ll want them to get better, but putting pressure on them to improve may make things worse for them.
- Let them know you’re open to talking about it, but try not to pressure them into a conversation.
Two thirds of young people with a mental health problem say that fear of judgement has stopped them telling a friend. Getting support from parents, teachers and professionals is important, but having a mate in their corner can make a big difference too. If you’re open about mental health, you can show your children that it’s ok to be open and talk about mental health problems.
- Let them know that just being there for their friend can make a big difference, and they don’t have to be an expert to help their friend
- Let them know that you’re there for them, and happy to talk about it and support them if it becomes too much.
- You could do some research online and find out more about the condition that their friend is experiencing – this will help them to build confidence.
- Watch our ‘in your corner’ films with your child, to show how big a difference it can make for them to be there for their friend.
Sometimes your child might not want to talk to you about anything, let alone their mental health. This can be tough for you, as you obviously want to make sure they are safe and well.
- There’s still a lot of stigma and silence around mental health in our society, meaning it can be really hard to open up about mental health problems – your child might still be coming to terms with what’s happening.
- Sometimes the time and space needs to be right – let them know you’re thinking about them and are there if they need you.
- Asking open questions, like “how was your day”, given them room to respond how they want. Closed (yes or no) questions can have the effect of shutting down a conversation.
- Reinforce the fact that mental health problems are common – 1 in 4 of us will experience them in our lifetime – and they aren’t something to be ashamed of.