During lockdown our Youth Worker Clo has been running a weekly Open Talk via Zoom. She has written an overview of some of the sessions content for Children’s Mental Health Week.
What do we mean by mental health?
In simple terms this refers to how we think and feel, and behave. It can impact how we deal with stress, how we interact with other people, and how the choices we make. Everyone has mental health, and at some points in our lives we may describe our mental health as being good, or perhaps not so good.
So why are we talking about young people’s mental health? Firstly, because young people are important, and secondly, because having poor mental health when you are young makes it more likely that you will have poor mental health as an adult. This means it is important to raise awareness of these issues. Below are some factors which can affect mental health:
Research has shown that social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. With around 85% of young people being online, it is more important than ever to think about the links between social media and mental health.
Cyberbullying is a key issue with being online, with almost 90% of young people saying they have witnessed cyberbullying, and over 1/3rd of young people having experienced it directly. This is significantly higher than a few years ago, as the internet has become a huge part of people’s lives. Cyberbullying is also higher in some groups of people; LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to experience this.
Social media can also affect our mental health in terms of the content that we see online. A lot of what we see is highlights, or edited posts. This is why we need to be critical of what we see online, as it is not always a reflection on reality
But it’s not all bad! Social media and the internet in general does have some positives in terms of mental health. It can allow us to access support from others, which can be particularly important for certain groups such as BAME and/or LGBTQ+ young people. Social media can also provide access to new friends, as well as helping us to maintain existing friendships which as lockdown has shown us, is incredibly important for our wellbeing!
Sleep is really important for our mental health as a lack of sleep can make us feel drained and irritable. We need sleep so that we can process all of the information our brains have taken in during the day!
Doing exercise during the day can also help us to sleep as we won’t be left with excess energy. It’s also a good idea to try and avoid napping during the day as this can prevent us from feeling sleepy at bedtime.
Young people who spend the most time on their phones, are often the young people who get the least sleep. The blue light from things like phones and computers can keep our brains active by tricking them into thinking that it is daytime, even at night. So, it’s a good idea to limit screen time in the evening as sleep is really important for our mental health. Another top tip for good sleep is to make sure our bedroom is dark, quiet, and not too hot; this can prevent us from waking up during the night,
Not only does exercise help us to sleep and to maintain our physical health, but it improves our mood and helps us to feel more positive. It also helps to improve our self-confidence and how well our brains work. Exercise can also be a great stress reliever, as it can use up the stress hormone adrenaline, making us feel more relaxed and calm. Team sports like football are especially good for our mental health as it can provide you with a support network and teach you how to deal with setbacks. Not being able to train in person is a real shame, but St Matthew’s are offering lots of ways to keep in touch virtually.
If you are feeling low or stressed, it can be really helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Sometimes this can feel difficult or awkward, but it is really important to talk about it instead of keeping it to yourself.
There is lots of support available to you if you don’t want to talk to someone you know. Here are some useful websites which can offer support: