More than one in four (26%) schoolchildren aged between 10 and 15 are worried or sad about their families not having enough money, according to the Mental Health Foundation
As part of its ‘Make it Count’ education campaign, the Mental Health Foundation looked at why so many schoolchildren in the UK are struggling with their mental health and what families can do to relieve stress this Christmas. The survey of 1,323 schoolchildren in Britain, carried out by YouGov, looks at the key sources of anxiety in young people.
According to the latest child and adolescent mental health statistics for England, children living in households in the lowest 20% income bracket are more than twice as likely to develop mental health problems as those living in households in the highest 20% income bracket.
The findings add to a large body of evidence which shows that financial pressures are a major cause of stress and mental health problems. Earlier this year, the Mental Health Foundation found that one in five adults (22%) said that ‘not having enough money to meet basic needs’ caused them stress. This was one of the top three listed sources of stress in the nationwide survey.
A separate study has shown that half of UK adults in problem debt are also living with mental ill health including anxiety, low mood and diagnosed mental health problems.
Feelings of sadness and worry can seriously impact children’s day-to-day lives, affecting their ability to sleep and do schoolwork, as well as causing arguments. With four children in every classroom in England living with a mental health problem, it’s time to address this epidemic.
Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said:
“Our survey highlights that many children are seriously worried about their parents’ finances. We have a responsibility to help children to deal with this and other pressures they are facing in today’s society.
“This is why we’re calling for mental health to be at the heart of what children learn in school. Schools can play a much bigger role in equipping children with the skills they need. Children are currently facing enormous challenges to their mental health - with rising rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm. More evidence-based programs, like our Peer Education Project, could be running in schools across the country to address this trend.”
Currently, the Mental Health Foundation is working with 75 schools in England and Wales delivering their Peer Education Project (PEP), to give young people the skills and knowledge they need to safeguard their mental health. The project has reached close to 15,000 students but, in order to influence more young people, the charity is calling for more schools in England and Wales to get involved in the PEP.
What happens when students become the teachers? Our Peer Education Project sees trained students deliver mental health classes to younger pupils. See it in action: #CharityWeek pic.twitter.com/pyLX2fweWg— Mental Health Fdn (@mentalhealth) December 3, 2018
In addition, the new campaign, ‘Make it Count’, aims to tackle the fast-rising rates of self-harm, depression and anxiety among young people by ensuring every child in the UK receives an education with mental health at its heart.
Find out more and sign the Make it Count petition or join the conversation using #MakeItCount.
Top tips for stress at Christmas
Of course, school is a big part of a child’s life, but managing your own stress levels can have a profoundly positive effect on the whole family. This time of year can leave us feeling stretched, not only financially but emotionally, too.
Here is some general advice for managing stress over the Christmas period:
Spend more time with family and spend less on gifts. Don’t feel pressured to buy lots of unnecessary gifts for extended friends and family. Spending quality time with the people we care about is great for our mental health: taking a winter walk together, playing cards or a board game at home are things we all enjoy. Physical activity will also release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which help boost your mood.
Good sleep is important. Sleep patterns can be disturbed over Christmas and New Year between catching up with friends and family and partying late into the night. Lack of sleep can make us feel physically unwell as well as stressed and anxious. Try to get back into your regular sleep routine as soon as possible after the party period.
Stock up on sprouts. Christmas is a time we all love to indulge, but there is growing evidence that eating healthily can improve moods. So, other than mince pies, stock up on seasonal clementines and sprouts and don’t forget to drink lots of water.
Give back. Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness and even benefit your physical health. Christmas is a good opportunity to volunteer for a charity or local community organisation.
Self-care isn’t selfish. While it’s the season of giving, it’s important to make time for yourself this Christmas too. It’s the perfect time of year to put your feet up, snuggle with a good book or a movie. Striking the balance between the responsibility for taking care of others and the responsibility to yourself is hard but taking a break is important for mental health.
If you’re worried about your own mental health or are concerned that your child is struggling, help is available. Talking with a trained counsellor can help you overcome stress and worry.
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