THIS week (MAY 9-15), marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Mental health for children and parents is something the NSPCC can help with.

We have all faced unprecedented challenges over the last few years, so it’s perhaps inevitable that many of us will feel anxiety, depression or stress at some point. That goes for children too, as they deal with the challenges of growing up as well as global events.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness, something our Childline counsellors have often heard about from children. Feelings of loneliness and isolation were exacerbated during the pandemic, and last year we delivered 6,039 counselling sessions about loneliness between April 2020 and March 2021 - an all-time high for a single year.

Even with children now back at school and restrictions lifted, there are still many aspects of the world which could negatively affect the mental health of your child. We know how hard it can be to talk to other people but sharing feelings can help things feel less overwhelming and help young people feel less alone.

It can be difficult for parents and carers to recognise when their child may be struggling with their mental health, and equally difficult for them to know how to offer support. We encourage parents to start a conversation with their children about how they’re feeling and if they have any worries. If your child tells you they’re feeling lonely or struggling, make sure they know they can talk to you, that you’re listening to them and value what they’re telling you. They can also get in contact with our Childline counsellors on the phone or online. This Mental Health Awareness Week and any other time we’re available around the clock, every day of the year.

If they’re not comfortable chatting to one of our counsellors, our Childline website has lots of resources for children and young people to support them with their mental health. Moderated message boards provide a safe space for young people to connect, share worries, and get support from peers. The Artbox lets children write or draw to help communicate their feelings, and Childline’s Calm Zone has tools and exercises to help when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

I’d also like to address the importance of looking after your own mental health and wellbeing as a parent or carer. Looking after a child can be difficult enough, but even more so if you’re dealing with mental health problems. Sometimes these mental health issues can affect family life. There are tips and coping strategies on the Childline and NSPCC websites.

* Debra Radford is NSPCC Assistant Director for Yorkshire and the North East