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York GP supports Children's Mental Health Week 2022

A GP from York has provided information to young people, carers and teachers in a video about children's mental health for this years' awareness week.

Dr Rumina Önaç, a GP at Old School Medical Practice explains how low mood, anxiety, phobias, and issues with body appearance have a huge impact on young people – especially through puberty, teenage years and into their twenties.

Hormonal changes throughout childhood also adds to this, as young people can experience a spectrum of emotions but her message is 'it's ok to feel confused about it.'

Withing the five-minute video Dr Önaç mentions some of the obstacles many young people experience such as not liking the way they look, being uncomfortable with the changes going on in their body or head and comparing themselves to their friends.

Dr Önaç says: "If you're feeling sad or anxious then please start by checking in with a trusted adult. Maybe a parent or carer, or a teacher. Your school may have a dedicated nurse or counsellor you can chat to.

"Anyone struggling isn't alone. 1 in 6 young people has a mental health difficulty, that’s pretty much five children in every classroom."

The video goes on to talk through ways in which young people can improve their mental health at home focusing on what they eat, sleep quality and regular exercise.

Dr Önaç points out that caffeine and sugar can cause trouble sleeping, anxiety, tremor, and agitation but healthy eating such as almonds, camomile and kiwi are foods that help you sleep well, which can boost your mood. She goes on to list some healthy sleep habits to improve wellbeing and the benefits of regular exercise.

Encouraging exercise through school sports or at home, she says: "All exercise is brilliant for anxiety and low mood, this is because when your anxious your body has a lot of free adrenalin floating around and exercise can help you absorb it. Exercise also releases chemicals in the brain that make us feel great."

Dr Önaç signposts to learning resources which can help improve understanding of mental health symptoms and build positivity and determination amongst young people. She recommends the Rebel Girls podcast, Dr Chris & Dr Xand Investigate (BBC iPlayer) and apps such as Woebot, and Headspace.

Whilst there is a lot of mental health support available online, she reminds parents and carers that:

"There's also a lot of negativity in the news right now and violence in video games – so watch what your youngsters are accessing online. Surround them with positive role models online as well as in person."

Towards the end of the video Dr Önaç explains what happens when a young person approaches their GP about how they are feeling.

Addressing young people again she says: "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. We might run through a list of symptoms - and we’ll cover the lifestyle-type changes that you should try for starters."

In a last address to parents, carers and those working with children, Dr Önaç says: "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."

Young people struggling with mental health symptoms can speak to their local GP or nurse for an appointment. When necessary, GPs can make an urgent referral to Young People's Services for further treatment and they can provide regular follow-up.

The full video can be watched via the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group YouTube channel:

More information on children's mental health can be found at:

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