With the arrival of the summer holidays, mental health charity campaign, Time to Change, is encouraging parents to take advantage of any extra time they can spend with their teenager to open up and connect over mental health.
Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change said: “With one in ten young people experiencing a mental health problem before the age of 16, mental health problems are likely to affect your child, either through personal experience, or that of their friends. Talking about mental health with your child can feel daunting but being open will pay off in the future. If young people are 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.
“The summer holidays can bring about lots of new opportunities to talk about mental health with your child. You don’t have to be an expert, just showing that you’re in their corner and open to the topic can make a big difference.”
How to talk about mental health with your child
1. 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.
2. 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 conversation.
3. Put experiences in context
We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Mental wellbeing doesn’t mean feeling happy all the time, and mental health problems are common.
4. Talk about your own mental health
Being open about your own mental health shows your child it’s ok to be open too.
5. Listening is key
It can be more important and significant than talking.
Adam Howard, 18, who experienced mental health problem in his early teens, said “It wasn’t until I was in sixth form that I opened up to my mum about my mental health. She noticed my behaviour was affecting my everyday life, including college, and we had a conversation about the appropriate steps we could take going forward to find a solution.
“My mum booked a doctor’s appointment and that’s when I was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression. Now if I do struggle or need someone simply to talk to, my mum does chat with me and sometimes having just one conversation can make a situation less daunting and allow you to feel a little better.”
For more tips and advice on how to start a conversation on mental health with your child, visit the Time to Change website.