28 July 2023

5 ways to better mental health online

Being online can present lots of great opportunities to connect, learn and share what’s important to you, but it comes with challenges too. If social media or the internet has ever made you feel stressed, envious or lonely, or experience feelings of lower self‑esteem or social anxiety, know that you’re not alone. Here are five tips on how to look…, 1. Avoid doomscrolling, Pay close attention to how social media and online content is influencing your emotions, thoughts or actions. How does it make you feel? Does reading the news make you feel informed or stressed? Does seeing photos of your friends at a party make you feel good or envious? Do you check your phone first thing in the morning to learn about breaking…, 2. Be mindful, There are loads of great online tools and content that can help support all aspects of mental health and wellbeing. From meditation apps to help you relax and focus, to platforms that help you develop your sense of identity and self, stay connected and support one another. There are lots of great online learning tools where you can try something…, 3. Protect yourself and others online, Check the privacy settings on all your social media profiles. Keep webcams covered when not in use. Be careful when signing up to apps and services online – especially providing your full name, address or photo. If you are concerned about something you have seen or experienced online, you should talk to a trusted adult like a parent or teacher,…, 4. Choose kindness, Use social media for good, by sharing positive and supportive content and messages with your friends, family and classmates. For example, you could reach out to let someone know you’re thinking of them or add a positive comment on a post they shared. If you find yourself responding to a message or post with something negative, pause and consider…, 5. Stay present and connected IRL, The lines between the online and offline worlds can feel increasingly blurred, making it hard to live in the present moment and satisfy our innate need for human contact. Do you ever find yourself interrupting what you are doing so you can post it on social media, or scrolling through your friend’s stories rather than calling or meeting up to see…
28 March 2023

What are panic attacks?

A panic attack is an intense feeling of fear and anxiety. It often happens if people feel anxious about something happening in their life or have experienced something difficult or stressful. Panic attacks can feel very frightening, especially for children, but they can usually be stopped with treatment. It’s important to know that a panic attack…, What is a panic attack?, A panic attack is a feeling of fear and anxiety that can overwhelm us quite suddenly and is usually accompanied by intense physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, shortness of breath and a racing heart. Many children feel a sense of terror during an attack, like something bad is about to happen. These feelings can occur even when there is no…, What causes panic attacks?, It is not always clear what causes panic attacks in children or adults. What we know is feeling anxious about something or experiencing something difficult or stressful can cause a panic attack. These situations include: Anxiety caused by a difficult experience at home or school Stress about things like exams, friendships or relationships The…, Panic attacks in children and adolescents, Panic attacks often begin during adolescence, although they may start during childhood. Attacks can lead to severe anxiety, as well as affecting other parts of a child's mood or functioning. Some children begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur. Adolescents might use alcohol or drugs to reduce their anxiety. If not…, Signs and symptoms of panic attacks, If your child experiences a panic attack, they might feel out of control with what’s going on around them, scared that their body is in danger or even like they are dying. Our bodies can react in different ways to panic attacks. Some of these reactions include:  Breathlessness, quick breathing or finding it hard to breathe  Light-headedness or a…, Ways to help your child cope, Knowing what triggers an attack is the first step in attacking panic. Ask your child how they feel and what is making them feel anxious or stressed. Are there certain situations or places that cause them to feel panicky? This knowledge can help your child think about what they can do to cope with those situations.  During a panic attack, your…, When to seek professional help, In severe cases of panic attacks, the child or adolescent may be afraid to leave home. If you notice your child showing persisting symptoms of panic attacks, it is time to seek help from your healthcare provider. Children and adolescents with symptoms of panic attacks should first be evaluated by their family doctor or pediatrician. If no other…
10 March 2023

What is depression?

All children feel low or down at times, it’s a natural part of growing up. But these emotions can be worrisome when felt intensely over long periods of time, particularly if they affect your child’s social, family and school life. Although it's hard for anyone to feel optimistic when they're depressed, depression can be treated and there are…, What is depression?, Depression is one of the most common types of mental health conditions and often develops alongside  anxiety . Depression can be mild and short-lived or severe and long-lasting. Some people are affected by depression only once, while others may experience it multiple times. Depression can lead to suicide, but this is preventable when appropriate…, What causes depression?, Depression can happen as a reaction to something like abuse, violence in school, the death of someone close or family problems like domestic violence or family breakdown. Someone might get depressed after being stressed for a long time. It can also run in the family. Sometimes we may not know why it happens. >> Learn more about stress and…, Depression in children and adolescents, Depression can show up in children and adolescents as prolonged periods of unhappiness or irritability. It is quite common among older children and teenagers, but often goes unrecognized. Some children might say they feel “unhappy” or “sad”. Others might say they want to hurt or even kill themselves. Children and adolescents who experience…, Signs and symptoms of depression in kids, Depression can feel different for different children. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of depression:   Physical: Tiredness or low energy, even when rested Restlessness or difficulty concentrating Difficulty in carrying out daily activities Changes in appetite or sleep patterns Aches or pains that have no obvious cause   Emotional…, Ways to help your child cope, Here are some things you can do to support your child if you think they may be depressed: Find out what’s happening: Ask them how they’re feeling and listen openly without judgment or advice. Ask people you trust who know your child, like a favourite teacher or close friend, to find out if they’ve noticed anything that might be worrying them or…, When to seek professional help, As depression can only be diagnosed by a qualified expert, it's important to seek help from your health care provider who may refer your child to a mental health expert or psychiatrist. If the mental health expert thinks your child would benefit from treatment, the options might include some form of talk therapy – where they learn how to manage…
20 February 2023

What is anxiety?

It is natural for children to feel worried and anxious at times, about things like friendships, speaking in front of a crowd or taking an exam. It’s when the worrying continues and makes everyday life hard that anxiety becomes a problem. The good news is that with the right professional help and through developing positive coping skills, anxiety…, What is anxiety?, Anxiety is the feeling you get when you’re worried or scared about something. It is a natural, human feeling of fear or panic. Afterwards, we usually calm down and feel better. Small amounts of worry and fear can help keep us safe and even protect us from danger. But sometimes anxiety can make us feel like things are worse than they actually are…, What causes anxiety?, It can be hard to pinpoint the exact causes of anxiety. When we face stressful situations, alarm bells go off in our brain telling us something isn’t right and that we need to deal with it. To make the difficult situation go away, our brain makes us more alert, stops us from thinking about other things and even pumps more blood to our legs to help…, Anxiety in children and adolescents, Children can feel anxious about different things at different ages. Many of these worries are a natural part of growing up. From the age of around 6 months to 3 years it's very common for young children to have separation anxiety. They may become clingy and cry when separated from their parents or caregivers. This is a normal stage in a child's…, Signs and symptoms of anxiety in kids, Anxiety symptoms can be complicated and may even arise long after a stressful event. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms:   Physical: Shortness of breath, headaches or feeling faint A racing heart and sometimes high blood pressure Feeling fidgety, trembling or feeling weak in the legs Feeling sick in your stomach – cramps, diarrhoea or…, Ways to help your child cope, If your child is feeling anxious, the first thing you can do is remind them is that the feeling will pass. This will help to soothe them and feel less anxious. There are things you can do to help them cope and be better prepared. Explore the feeling together: Ask your child to observe their feelings of anxiety and tell you – what is happening when…, When to seek professional help, If anxiety is impacting your child’s daily life, professional treatment can make a huge difference. Your health-care provider can refer you to a mental health professional for an assessment and advice on treatment that is right for your child. If your child is offered counselling or talk therapy, they can speak with a trained mental health…
26 January 2023

Busted: 7 myths about mental health

Dispelling myths about mental health can help break the stigma and create a culture that encourages people of any age to seek support when they need it. Here are seven common misconceptions about mental health:, 1. Myth: If a person has a mental health condition, it means the person has low intelligence., Fact: Mental illness, like physical illness, can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class, or income level.  , 2. Myth: You only need to take care of your mental health if you have a mental health condition., Fact: Everyone can benefit from taking active steps to promote their well-being and improve their mental health. Similarly, everyone can take active steps and engage in healthy habits to optimize their physical health.  , 3. Myth: Poor mental health is not a big issue for teenagers. They just have mood swings caused by hormonal fluctuations and act out due to a desire for attention., Fact: Teenagers often have mood swings, but that does not mean that adolescents may not also struggle with their mental health. Fourteen per cent of the world’s adolescents experience mental-health problems. Globally, among those aged 10–15, suicide is the fifth most prevalent cause of death, and for adolescents aged 15–19 it is the fourth most…, 4. Myth: Nothing can be done to protect people from developing mental health conditions., Fact: Many factors can protect people from developing mental health conditions, including strengthening social and emotional skills, seeking help and support early on, developing supportive, loving, warm family relationships, and having a positive school environment and healthy sleep patterns. The ability to overcome adversity relies on a…, 5. Myth: A mental health condition is a sign of weakness; if the person were stronger, they would not have this condition., Fact: A mental health condition has nothing to do with being weak or lacking willpower. It is not a condition people choose to have or not have. In fact, recognizing the need to accept help for a mental health condition requires great strength and courage. Anyone can develop a mental health condition.  , 6. Myth: Adolescents who get good grades and have a lot of friends will not have mental health conditions because they have nothing to be depressed about., Fact: Depression is a common mental health condition resulting from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. Depression can affect anyone regardless of their socioeconomic status or how good their life appears at face value. Young people doing well in school may feel pressure to succeed, which can cause anxiety, or…, 7. Myth: Bad parenting causes mental conditions in adolescents., Fact: Many factors – including poverty, unemployment, and exposure to violence, migration, and other adverse circumstances and events – may influence the well-being and mental health of adolescents, their caregivers and the relationship between them. Adolescents from loving, supporting homes can experience mental health difficulties, as can…
21 December 2022

Four things you can do to support your teen’s mental health

Whether you and your teen are getting along well or having challenges, it is important to show that you love and support them, that you can help them navigate tough times and that you are always there for them. Here are four things to keep in mind when having that ‘how-are-you-doing?’ conversation with your teen and to show that you are always…, 1. Encourage them to share their feelings, Look for ways to check in with your teen. Ask them how their day has been and what they have been doing. It could be by inviting them to join you in a task, such as preparing dinner, so you can use the time to chat about their day. Remind them that you are there for them, no matter what, and that you want to hear how they are feeling and what they…, 2. Take the time to support them, Work together on setting up new routines and achievable daily goals. You could fit in home chores around school work or set a target like getting homework done before dinner. Adolescence means independence! Try to give your teen the appropriate time and space to be on their own. Needing space is a normal part of growing up. Find a few ways you can…, 3. Work through conflict together, Listen to your teen’s views and try to sort out conflict calmly. Remember: everyone gets stressed! Never discuss an issue while you are angry. Walk away, take a breath and calm down — you can talk with your teen about it later. Avoid power struggles. With the world feeling unpredictable and options looking limited right now, teens might be…, 4. Care for yourself, Caregivers have a lot to deal with. You also need care and support for yourself. Showing self-care is also a good way of modelling the practice to your teen. Don’t wait to ask others for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is normal and okay to feel this way. Find a family member or someone you can talk to. Make time for your own relationships…
15 December 2022

How to discipline your child the smart and healthy way

There comes a time when every parent struggles with how best to discipline their child. Whether dealing with a screaming toddler or an angry teen, it can be hard to control your temper. No parent wants to find themselves in such a situation and the bottom line is that shouting and physical violence never help. Thankfully, there are other, more…, -, Why positive discipline?, “Parents don't want to shout or hit their kids. We do it because we're stressed and don't see another way,” says Professor Cluver. The evidence is clear: shouting and hitting simply do not work and can do more harm than good in the long run. Repeated shouting and hitting can even adversely impact a child’s entire life. The continued “toxic stress…, 1. Plan 1-on-1 time, One-on-one time is important for building any good relationship and even more so with your children. “It can be 20 minutes a day. Or even 5 minutes. You can combine it with something like washing dishes together while you sing a song or chatting while you're hanging out the washing,” says Professor Cluver. “What's really important is that you…, 2. Praise the positives, As parents we often focus on our children’s bad behaviour and call it out. Children may read this as a way to get your attention, perpetuating poor conduct rather than putting a stop to it. Children thrive on praise. It makes them feel loved and special. “Watch out for when they're doing something good and praise them, even if that thing is just…, 3. Set clear expectations, “Telling your child exactly what you want them to do is much more effective than telling them what not to do,” says Professor Cluver. “When you ask a child to not make a mess, or to be good, they don't necessarily understand what they're required to do.” Clear instructions like “Please pick up all of your toys and put them in the box” set a clear…, 4. Distract creatively, When your child is being difficult, distracting them with a more positive activity can be a useful strategy says Professor Cluver. “When you distract them towards something else – by changing the topic, introducing a game, leading them into another room, or going for a walk, you can successfully divert their energy towards positive behaviour.”…, 5. Use calm consequences, Part of growing up is learning that if you do something, something can happen as a result. Defining this for your child is a simple process that encourages better behaviour while teaching them about responsibility. Give your child a chance to do the right thing by explaining the consequences of their bad behaviour. As an example, if you want your…, Engaging with younger children, One-on-one time can be fun – and it’s completely free! “You can copy their expressions, bang spoons against pots, or sing together,” adds Professor Cluver. “There’s amazing research showing that playing with your children boosts their brain development.”, Engaging with older children, Like younger children, teenagers seek praise and want to be thought of as good. One-on-one time is still important to them. “They love it if you dance around the room with them or engage in a conversation about their favourite singer,” says Professor Cluver. “They may not always show it, but they do. And, it's an effective way of building a…, Advice for parents during the COVID-19 pandemic , The pandemic has brought about sudden and drastic changes in the lives of families with parents directly in the middle of it. Here are some tips that can help parents get through these and any other stressful times:, 1. Pause, We all know the stress when we feel our child is being difficult. At moments like these, being present and stepping back is a simple and useful tactic. Hit the “pause button”, as Professor Cluver calls it. “Take five deep breaths, slowly and carefully and you'll notice you are able to respond in a calmer, more considered way. Parents across the…, 2. Step back, Parents often forget to care for themselves, says Professor Cluver. “Take some time for yourself, such as when the kids are asleep, to do something that makes you feel happy and calm. It's really hard to do all the things right as a parent, when you haven't given yourself a break.”, 3. Praise yourself, It’s easy to forget the astonishing job you do as a parent every day and you should give yourself the credit, advises Professor Cluver. “Each day, maybe while brushing your teeth, take a moment to ask: ‘What was one thing I did really well with my kids today?’ And, just know that you did something great.”   “We might be in and out of isolation,…
11 March 2022

How to recognize signs of distress in children

Children have different reactions to adverse events in their environment. Culture influences the ways in which we express emotions. In some cultures, for example, it is not appropriate to show strong emotions like crying loudly, while in others it is widely accepted.  Some signs of distress may not be so obvious. Here are some of the signs of…, Common reactions to stress in children, Many of these reactions only last for a short time, and are normal reactions to stressful events. If these reactions last for a prolonged period of time, the child may need specialist support.   Age Reaction 0-3 years Clinging to their caregivers more than normal Regressing to former (younger) behaviours Changes in sleeping and eating patterns…, Emotional check-ins, The COVID-19 pandemic has been an emotionally difficult time for everyone and many children have been greatly affected. You should check in regularly on how your child is feeling. To check-in emotionally is to ask children “how they are” in a direct or indirect way. One check-in method is to ask your child to draw or paint a picture. Ask them to…, Activities to reduce stress and support your child’s well-being, These activities can be done with your child to help reduce stress and provide them with positive coping strategies that support their well-being. These activities are also beneficial for you and can be done with your child together.  Belly breathing Often when we are stressed our breathing becomes shallow, high in our chests, and we forget to…