Youth Mental Health Day 2021

Current research by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that mental health problems affect around one in six children - that’s five pupils in every class.

But even more shocking for me is the fact that 75% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had access to the appropriate help, support, and intervention at an early enough age.

Throw into the mix an extended period out of the classroom in the last 2 years, disruption at home and the worry caused by the pandemic and it’s now more than ever that we need to be supporting the mental health of everyone; in particular our children.

This starts with helping young people to recognise and understand their feelings and emotions, identify, and process their worries and learn good coping mechanisms. If we work with children from an early age this can help lay the foundation for achieving long lasting, good mental health and wellbeing.

Over the years I have worked on these skills with both my own children and young people in schools in a range of ways, including using age-appropriate books and activities that take a serious subject and make it approachable and child friendly. Some techniques that I have found effective include:

  • Using an emotion wheel or similar resource so that children can identify how they are feeling, but also understand that it is normal to feel a range of emotions.
  • Getting the worries out of our head and onto paper. This could be done with a worry box or monster, in words or as drawings.
  • Thinking about possible, logical solutions for our ‘what if’ worries.
  • Mindfulness techniques, for example controlled breathing activities or focusing on the senses. 
  • Attitude of gratitude – Focusing on all of the positive things that have happened in our day rather than dwelling on the negative. This is a nice one to do just before the child goes to sleep at night.
  • Encouraging healthy habits, both physical and mental.

It is so important that we aren’t afraid to talk about our mental health, to break down the stigma and worry that can surround it and to help young people of all ages feel comfortable discussing their own mental health and wellbeing. As my own children grow up and the issues they face change, I hope I have helped them to recognise when they need help, what they can do to support themselves, that help is available, and that mental health should never be something to be ashamed of.

As an advocate of children’s mental health, I am delighted to be able to support Kent Teach in getting mental health and wellbeing books into schools. I am helping give away 10 bundles of Mental Health and Wellbeing books covering activities, techniques and information aimed at children from EYFS all the way through to the top of Key Stage 2, so that we can all gain more awareness of the 1 in 6 who are affected by mental health issues and help the 70% who need extra support.

Elizabeth Miller is an Usborne book distributor with extensive experience working in and with schools. If you would like to find out more about how she can help you choose the right books and get more of them into your school (including earning free books!) you can get in touch on 

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