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Mental health week for children was last week, and you probably did not know about it

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Last week was children’s mental health week in the UK. Groups and organisations came together to encourage adults to listen more, and give young people a safe space to share. However, for an awareness mission, it wasn’t quite a successful one. 

According to statistics, roughly 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder, ranging from anxiety and panic attacks to ADHD and schizophrenia, and half of all adult mental health problems manifest by the age of 14. These facts are straightforward: more and more kids suffer from this instability, and no one’s really talking about it. 

Growing up is a complex and unique process each one experiences differently. Going through hormonal changes, discovering your ever-changing body, but also coping with all kinds of pressures, from school, family, friends, and social media. A lot of children deal with it well, especially in well-supported environments, but others can have it harder. Things like divorce, mental illness, bullying and learning difficulties can extremely harm a child’s blossoming. 

The NHS wouldn’t need to dedicate all this time and resources to adults if they had dealt with children in the first place. Sure, it’s a vicious cycle, but one that can be broken. 

Fortunately, some organisations are working hard to find alternative ways for children and teenagers to seek relief. 

Peter Leigh is the CEO of Key Changes, a group that offers music recovery services for young people experiencing mental health problems. He talks about this issue that is quickly leading to an increase in mental illnesses. 

The incidents of young people with mental health problems is increasing every year. People don’t realise the scale of the problem. Children and kids tend to pull out from activities, until they reach a crisis. And when they have to go to the hospital, they’re hidden from the public view.” 

In his opinion, a mental health week is the right way to raise awareness. However, he himself did not know about it. 

Young people are locked into hospitals, for their safety and that of others, and that’s how the system works. Thus, they’re hidden from the media and the public, leaving little awareness on the subject. This not only leads to fewer resources and support but also less education; kids and youth who undergo mental health challenges aren’t aware of the many programmes and workshops available, ones that go beyond psychological support and medical labels. 

Leigh mentions how the space Key Changes offers is one of safety, inspiration, and empowerment: “Music’s a great way of cutting through resistance. It’s a universal language, and it’s important young people know they’re able to talk about their feelings.”

The sad truth behind his story is that most of the times, the kids that come to them have never had the opportunity to actually access some sort of therapeutic activity. Because sometimes, medication isn’t the solution to everything.

Ayala Homossany, a Yoga teacher for children and families at Yoga Campus, sees the same pattern as Peter. 

“Yoga is very tangible. Kids don’t rely on medication anymore. With medical treatment, children feel like it’s not them. They want to be happy in their body, using their own tools.”

Ayala hadn’t heard about this awareness week either and felt troubled as someone’s who’s in the field. To her, more awareness and media coverage means more knowledge; kids and parents can notice unusual behaviour and can work on it early on. 

Yoga promotes resilience, self-consciousness, and confidence. The physicality in yoga along with breathing exercises benefit the psychological well-being. This reminds me of the Latin sentence “mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind in a healthy body. 

As Ayala mentioned in my interview with her, when you give children and youth the right tools, whether it’s through music, yoga or any other artistic and bodily expression, they feel in control of their body and emotions, and that’s the best way to a more confident life. 

It’s clear that there are multiple services that children with mental health problems can benefit from, despite poor medical support. However, when there’s not enough awareness going on, young people are not conscious about their health and happiness. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding comfort in one’s skin. 

So here’s to more awareness, and here’s to children finally owning their health. 

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