Children’s Mental Health Week 2019

This week, from 4th-10th February, Place2Be are raising awareness for the importance of children’s mental health. This was a national week launched in 2015, and now they are running this for the 4th year.

A staggering 56% of children say they worry all the time about something; ranging from worries stemming from school, home life or themselves.

Healthy: Inside and Out

This year, the main focus of the week is to promote the idea of being healthy, from the inside and out. It is well established that our bodies and our minds are closely interlinked, so paying more attention to what we fuel our bodies with can have an impact on how we feel mentally, and how we are feeling mentally is able to have an impact on the composition of our bodies (with a lot of research linking to changes within our gut bacteria).

So how can we help our children focus on being healthy inside out this week? Whether you are a parent, teacher, child yourself or someone in close contact with children, we’ve put together a bunch of ways you may be able to help.

  1. Talk to the children about the week and allow them the time and space to talk to someone. Children, and adults alike, may often feel lonely and isolated when going through hard times mentally. Especially for children, as they may not have experienced any conversation around the topic of mental healthy struggles before. Allowing children to know more about mental health will hopefully normalise the subject, and make children feel more comfortable about speaking up if they are suffering.
  1. Promote consumption of fruits and vegetables. This one goes without saying for general wellbeing, however the diverse range of fibres fruits and vegetables contain are of vital importance for the child’s microbiome. The microbiome is the name given to the community of bacteria found in the large intestine. There is more emerging evidence now showing how the gut and the brain are closely linked, so ensuring the gut is full of a range of plant fibres from a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables

 

  1. Research has shown that those children who sleep less than the recommended number of hours for their age are less able to cope with their worries and say they don’t know what to do when they are worried. Therefore, helping the children understand the role enough sleep plays on mental health is important.

4. Children who engage in 60 minutes of physical activity per day are less likely to have depressive symptoms. This may also be attributed to the promotion of social interaction too, if playing with other friends and peers. In the winter months, time spent physically active outdoors may naturally be lower than summer months, however there are many great active games and activities to be played indoors. Ideas include: using a skipping rope indoors, balloon games, animal races and assorted exercises such as jumping jacks and skaters.

5. Oily fish. Studies have shown that a poor diet (high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and processed foods) is linked for poorer mental health amongst children and adolescents. It is well documented that omega 3 fats, found in oily fish can have positive effects on mental health, mainly due to the effect of EPA and DHA (omega 3 fatty acids) on the brain structure and role with production hormones such as serotonin (our happy hormone).

6. Vitamin D. The connection between Vitamin D and mental health amongst children and adolescence is emerging, are more research is needed, but evidence to date suggests a protective role of Vitamin D supplementation on mental health. The government recommends all children over the age of 1 years supplement with 10µg of vitamin D (in the form of D3) during the winter months in the UK.

So, there you have our top tips for supporting children’s mental wellbeing. Remember you don’t have to tackle this all at once. Start with one point and try to fully engage the children before moving on.

References:

Kremer P, Elshaug C, Leslie E, et al. Physical activity, leisure-time screen use and depression among children and young adolescents. J Sci Med Sport. 2014;17:183-187.