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Mind your head: Mental health help boost

MENTAL Health Awareness Week is running from May 18 to 24, and this year the theme is ‘Be Kind'. It has particular significance during the current crisis, especially on children and adolescents who are currently away from school and their friends. Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director of Psychology Dr Louise Cumbley and Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Mary Smeddle from NHS Dumfries and Galloway have produced the following insight and advice around how the current epidemic may be affecting young people. “The focus of this year's mental health awareness week is ‘be kind'. This can mean so many things. “During these difficult times, focusing on being kind to ourselves is a good place to start. However, remembering to be kind to ourselves as parents and encouraging our children to be kind to themselves can be really challenging. Children often focus on self-blame when things go wrong, focusing on themselves as the cause of the issue. During the current situation, children and adults are having to adjust to a whole new way of living, including huge changes to their weekly routines and lots of restrictions placed upon what they can and can't do. They can't go to the park or to school and their connections with other important people in their lives such as friends, family and teachers have been drastically altered. Children will try to find an explanation for all these drastic changes and may be tempted to blame or criticise themselves. Young people are having to manage their own learning at home and this can put pressure on them to be their own teacher. Parents can also give themselves a hard time for not knowing how to teach! All of these negative thoughts can lead to unpleasant feelings and can be hard to deal with. As parents we have an instinct to try to fix or take away the problems for children but in these circumstances, this is not possible “When children find a situation challenging, this can lead to changes in their behaviour as they display their feelings of confusion and upset through their behaviour rather than saying how they feel. Helping children to verbalise their feelings will help them to talk about what is worrying or upsetting them. “When we understand this with them, we can help them be kind and compassionate to themselves. “Understanding that they are not to blame for this situation and there is little they can do to change it helps them to give themselves perspective and balance “Self-compassion starts with noticing unpleasant thoughts and feelings, acknowledging that things may not be within our control and learning to accept them. There is a belief that talking about feelings can make them worse but this is not the case. Sharing a fear or worry, being listened to and offered empathy and support, will make children feel safe and secure. This is not about solving the problem that causes the feelings but acknowledging and listening to children's fears and worries. None of us have the answers and but feeling listened to and supported can make a world of difference to how our children feel. Put relationships first Look at this as an opportunity to strengthen relationships. We are spending more time with those we share a household with than ever before. What we want our children to remember about this time is how they felt and how we got through this together. “Our relationship with our children is the first step to managing behaviour, schooling or their wellbeing. “The phrase ‘connect before correct' is a key principle in parenting in challenging times. If you want to ‘correct' or change a behaviour, you first have to have a connection with that person. It is likely, given this extreme situation that we are currently all living in, that both children and their parent/caregivers may not be as patient as usual. If you have a falling out with your child it is really important, once everyone has calmed down, to make up with them and talk about how you all could do things differently next time, apologising if you need to. In these times it is important to try and be as kind and forgiving as you can be to yourself and to your child and remember that we are currently living in very stressful times and that you and your child are doing the best you can do to get through it. Showing that that we can apologise as adults, correct our mistakes and move on helps to build children's resilience for their life as adults. In order to teach our children to be kind to themselves, we have to show our children that we are also kind to ourselves. This can be hard to do, particularly if this is a new skill for us. It can be saying out loud, ‘I have worked so hard today, I deserve a treat this evening'. ‘I made a mistake but that's ok, let's move on' Dumfries and Galloway Clinical Psychology Service have also set up a webpage with lots of useful advice that you can look at. It can be found on https://www.nhsdg.co.uk/mental-health-and-wellbeing-and-coronavirus/ We are constantly updating it so please feel free to check it regularly. We have also set up a wellbeing hub devised if you want to speak to someone about mental health during this crisis – this can be contacted directly on 01387 244495.

<< back Published: 20 May 2020, 09:52

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