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Children's mental health week

Children’s Mental Health Week 2022, is running from the 7th to the 13th of February 2022.

In the Vale of York GP practices are supporting Children's Mental Health Week by reminding you that young people can speak to their GP for a range of different support with their mental health and wellbeing.

GP surgeries see a lot of young people who are struggling with their mental wellbeing. This includes symptoms like:

  • low mood
  • anxiety
  • OCD
  • phobias
  • issues with body appearance
  • and more

Changing hormone levels

There’s a lot going on in your body as it changes and grows from childhood through puberty, teenage years and into your 20s. It’s easy to see physical changes on the outside but we can’t always make sense of what’s going on on the inside.

When hormone levels change, it can make us feel happy, sad, energised, exhausted, hungry, confused, and many other things as well.

It's OK to feel unsure about all of this. You might not like the way you look or the changes going on in your body or head. You might be excited about it. You might compare yourself to your friends and wonder why you seem to be developing more quickly or slowly. The loss of contact with your friends and teachers over the pandemic may have made school relationships tricky, and you might be feeling unsettled if you’ve also had the added wrench of changing schools during the pandemic and missing out on some of the usual end of school celebration.

What can you do to help?

  1. Talk to someone. If you’re feeling sad or anxious then please start by checking in with a trusted adult such as a parent or carer, or a teacher. Your school may have a dedicated school nurse or counsellor you can chat to. If you’re worried about a friend, encourage them to speak out about the way they feel. Anyone struggling isn’t alone: one in six young people has a mental health difficulty. That’s around five children per classroom.
  2. Think about what you put into your body. There are actually lots of things you can do at home that could help you feel better. Did you know that what you eat, how much sleep you get, and how much exercise you do can hugely affect your mental wellbeing? Caffeine in energy drinks and coffee can cause problems sleeping, anxiety, tremor and agitation. Sugary snacks are great for instant energy but they get broken down in your body in a way that makes you feel sluggish and sometimes even quite sad soon afterwards. Cannabis and excessive alcohol can cause anxiety and low mood. And smoking tobacco is damaging to those around you, as well as causing bad breath, and health problems.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Almonds, walnuts, chamomile and kiwi are a few foods that can help you sleep well and getting enough sleep can help boost your mood. Remember to turn off those screens well before bedtime to let your brain wind-down. Think about your alarm too – do you really want to wake up to an industrial siren or offensive rap lyrics, or would some uplifting or funky music set you on a better path for the day ahead?
  4. Get active. All exercise is brilliant for anxiety and low mood. This is because when you’re anxious your body has a lot of free adrenaline floating around and exercising can help absorb it. Exercise also releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel great. So get stuck into school sports or if you prefer to train from the comfort of your own home, have a look at Joe Wicks on YouTube.
  5. Seek out the facts! There are some brilliant learning resources out there helping improve understanding as well as building positivity and determination. Check out the Rebel Girls podcast, Dr Chris & Dr Xand Investigate (which is on BBC iPlayer) and apps such as Woebot, and Headspace. And while we’re talking about web-based info, remember there’s also lot of negativity in the News right now, and violence in video games so adults: make sure you know what your youngsters are accessing online. Surround them with positive role models online as well as in person.

How your Healthcare provider can help - Dr Rumina Onac explains:

"So what happens when you speak to your GP or nurse about how you’re feeling? Well, don’t be scared, remember we’re on your side. We’ll gently ask questions about what’s going on in your life right now." A common list of symptoms a GP will check through with you includes:

  • tiredness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • crying for no obvious reason
  • feeling irritated
  • headaches
  • butterflies in your tummy
  • feeling dizzy
  • and more..

Dr Onac adds: "We’ll cover the lifestyle-type changes above that you should try for starters. And we often use talking as part of treatment too. For instance, counselling, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is all about understanding how our thoughts, feelings and emotions are linked which is hugely helpful in dealing with your problems. You can self-refer for this through your GP surgery’s website. There are also some great web-based versions and apps to try if you’re on the waiting list for face-to-face therapy. Have a look at Silvercloud, Calm, and Moodivate.

"Sometimes mood problems are linked to underlying issues like anaemia or low thyroid, which your GP Surgery will be able to recognise and treat. And we occasionally need to give medication too. If we do, we’ll always talk you through the pros and cons of this first."

Young people

If you’re a young person struggling with any of the issues outlined here, please speak to your friendly local GP or nurse. They can arrange a face-to-face consultation when necessary, can make an urgent referral to Young People’s Services for further treatment if needed, and they can provide regular follow-up.

Your GP practice is really experienced at supporting and treating young people to help you live happy and healthy lives from childhood up to young adulthood and beyond.

Adults

If you’re a parent, carer teacher or health professional, talk to your young people about the sorts of symptoms to look out for and seek help if you’re worried. There doesn’t need to be a taboo around feelings, and it’s important that they can seek help with emotional difficulties just as they would with a painful ankle. Check out the NHS website, York Mind, Recovery College Online, and Young Minds for more information. Young Minds have a free helpline for parents Monday-Friday.

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