Mental Health

National Studies suggest that in the UK, about 1 in 10 of all young people may experience a mental health problem or disorder. These studies also emphasise that it is important to get help early, conditions are treatable and getting the help early can prevent problems getting more serious. There are different types of mental health issues that affect children and young people. Here you can find out more information on Depression, Eating Disorders & Self-Harm.

The NSPCC have produced a short animation which summarises the research and recommendations for what works in improving the mental health and emotional wellbeing for children in care. Around half of children in care have a problem with their mental health, which is four times as likely as children who aren’t in care. To find out what can be done to improve the emotional wellbeing of children in care, click here: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/wellbeing

From 1 November, all Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) across Essex will be called Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Service (EWMHS). Anyone currently receiving treatment as part of CAMHS will be transferred over safely and the same staff will continue to provide the new service; wherever possible children and young people will see the same person in the same location. The EWMHS leaflet contains more information, including the conditions and issues EWMHS will treat.

For further support you can speak to your doctor or use one of the links below for more information.

Depression

Young people are more vulnerable and sensitive to what is happening to them and are less experienced at being able to deal with problems and anxieties. Depression can be started by a number of things, such as: parents divorcing or separating; feeling ignored and unloved or not being listened to; losing friends; changing school or moving home; worries about their looks, sexuality, health, exams or abuse.

What are the signs?

While young people can sometimes seem unhappy and quiet, you may feel that this is more than just a phase. Signs may include being unable to sleep, eating too much or too little, mood swings, staying in their bedroom all day, or giving up interests and hobbies. Crying, avoiding friends and family, finding it hard to do their schoolwork, or not caring about what they look like are other things to look out for. They may talk about death or have suicidal thoughts. To escape from their feelings or let them out in the only way they know how, young people may start taking drugs or drinking, not going to school, becoming violent or carrying out crimes such as shoplifting.

How to help

If you think your child is depressed or suffering from depression they need help; talk to them and find out if there is any way you can help. Be patient and understanding, listen to them – what may seem like small problems to you can be too much for a young person. Talk to your doctor and discuss what treatment (such as counselling) may be helpful. You could speak to your child’s school to see if they have noticed any differences in your son or daughter.

NHS Choices - Is your child depressed?

Young Minds - Parents Helpline 0808 802 5544

Rethink - Depression in children

Eating Disorders

In general, eating disorders develop over time, sometimes over years, and often at a point when life brings fear and insecurity.

Anorexia nervosa is an illness in which people keep their body weight low by dieting, vomiting, or excessively exercising. The illness is caused by
an anxiety about body shape and weight that originates from a fear of being fat or from wanting to be thin. How people with anorexia nervosa see themselves is often at odds with how they are seen by others, and they will usually challenge the idea that they should gain weight. People with anorexia nervosa can see their weight loss as a positive achievement that can help increase their confidence and selfesteem. It can also contribute to a feeling of gaining control over body weight and shape.

Bulimia nervosa is an illness in which people feel that they have lost control over their eating. As in anorexia nervosa, they evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. Indeed in some instances (although not all), bulimia nervosa develops out of anorexia nervosa. People with bulimia nervosa are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called ‘binge eating’), and then vomiting, taking laxatives and diuretics (called ‘purging’), or excessive exercising and fasting, in order to prevent gaining weight. This behaviour can dominate daily life, and lead to difficulties in relationships and social situations. Usually people hide this behaviour from others, and their weight is often normal. People with bulimia nervosa tend not to seek help or support very readily. People with bulimia nervosa can experience swings in their mood, and feel anxious and tense. They may also have very low self-esteem, and might try to hurt themselves by scratching or cutting. They may experience symptoms such as tiredness, feeling bloated, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular periods, or occasional swelling of the hands and feet. Excessive vomiting can cause problems with the teeth, while laxative misuse can seriously affect the heart.

Further support and information can be found using the below links:
Self-harm
Self-harm is when someone sets out to hurt themselves deliberately. It is often done in private as a way of coping with very difficult emotions. Recent research estimates that 10 per cent of 15-16 year olds have self-harmed, usually by cutting themselves, and that girls are more likely to self-harm than boys.

Self-harm can be a way for a young person to show they are feeling a lot of pain and hurt. There are many reasons why young people might harm themselves - although the need to self-harm usually comes from emotions they find difficult to manage. The emotions could relate to any number of things, such as bullying or abuse, or indicate other concerns.

Young people tell us that self-harm provides a way of releasing tension or anger. It's a physical pain they can deal with, rather than an emotional feeling they find hard to manage. It is also a way of gaining control, especially when they feel other parts of their life are out of control.

Many young people use self-harm as a type of punishment. It could be for something they've done, think they've done, are accused of, or have suffered. While self-harm is not usually a sign of suicidal thoughts, if a young person is not helped to stop there is a risk they could cause serious damage or accidental death.

How do people self-harm?

There are many ways that people self-harm. These might include:

  • cutting or scratching
  • causing bruises
  • banging their head against a wall
  • pulling out hair
  • burning

People who self-harm usually try to keep it a secret from their friends and family and often injure themselves in places that can be hidden easily by clothing. Self-harming can be addictive. A young person may want to stop but might not be able. There is a lot of shame attached to self harm, and this can prevent young people from asking for help.

If you suspect someone is self-harming and would like some advice the NSPCC Helpline is a 24-hour, confidential helpline for adults worried about a child's safety. 0808 800 5000 email help@nspcc.org.uk.

Other information sources

Mind - Understanding Self Harm

Young Minds - Self Harm Factsheets

NHS Choices

Self Harm - Support for young people impacted by self harm

A document from the University of Oxford has been published as a guide for parents on coping with their child's self-harm which is based on in-depth research with parents.