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Emotional and mental health

Emotional/Mental Health – Anxiety

Anxiety is very common in the teenage years. This is because teenagers have new experiences, opportunities and challenges. They want more independence and their brains change. Feeling anxious is part of the normal range of emotions, just like feeling angry or embarrassed. For most teenagers, anxiety doesn’t last and goes away on its own. But for some teenagers it doesn’t go away or is so intense it that it stops them from doing everyday things. Managing anxiety is an important life skill.

If your teenage child is feeling anxious, the best way to help them manage it is to let them know that it’s normal to feel anxious sometimes. Tell your child the feeling will go away in time, and that it shouldn’t stop them from doing what they need to do, like giving a presentation in class.

Acknowledge your child’s fear – don’t dismiss or ignore it. It’s important for your child to feel that you take them seriously and that you believe they can overcome their fears. Your child also needs to know that you’ll be there to support them. Gently encourage your child to do the things they’re anxious about. But don’t push your child to face situations they don’t want to face.

Help your child set small goals for things that they feel a little anxious about. Encourage your child to meet the goals, but don’t step in too early or take control. For example, your child might be anxious about performing in front of others. As a first step, you could suggest your child practises their lines in front of the family. Try not to make a fuss if your child avoids a situation because of anxiety. Tell your child that you believe they’ll be able to manage their feelings in the future by taking things step by step. Try to acknowledge all the steps that your child takes, no matter how small those steps are.

Tell your child about your own worries as a teenager, and remind your child that lots of other teenagers feel anxious too. Help your child understand that it’s normal to go through a big range of emotions and that sometimes these can be strong emotions. Talk with your child about their other emotions – for example, ‘You seem really excited about the swimming carnival’. This sends the message that all emotions, positive and negative, come and go.

Listen actively to your child. By listening, you can help your child identify their thoughts and feelings, which is a good first step to managing them. Show your child affection – for example, by hugging and telling them regularly that you love them. Your love lets your child know you’re there to help them cope when they’re feeling anxious. Avoid labelling your child as ‘shy’ or ‘anxious’. Try to be a good role model for your child in the way that you manage your own stress and deal with your own anxiety.

Emotional/Mental Health – Stress – link to 16+ breathing techniques

Emotional/Mental Health – Self Harm

Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. Some people have described self-harm as a way to express something that is hard to put into words, change emotional pain into physical pain, reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts or escape traumatic memories. After self-harming you may feel a short-term sense of release, but the cause of your distress is unlikely to have gone away. Self-harm can also bring up very difficult emotions and could make you feel worse.

Even though there are always reasons underneath someone hurting themselves, it is important to know that self-harm does carry risks. Once you have started to depend on self-harm, it can take a long time to stop. There are lots of different forms of self-harming. Some people use the same one all the time, other people hurt themselves in different ways at different times. If you self-harm, it is important that you know how to look after your injuries and that you have access to the first aid equipment you need. If you’re concerned about an injury or not sure how to look after it, see your GP.

The main way people help themselves when they want to self-harm is through distraction. Different distractions work for different people, and the same distraction won’t necessarily work for you every time. The following are simply suggestions. See if you can write your own list of distractions that you’ve found helpful or that you would like to try out.

Exercise, hit cushions, shout and dance, tear something up into hundreds of pieces, wrap a blanket around you, spend time with an animal, walk in nature, let yourself cry or sleep. Listen to soothing music, tell someone how you feel, write lists, tidy up and declutter, clench then relax all your muscles. flick elastic bands on your wrists, hold ice cubes, smell something with strong odour, stop spending time with anyone who treats you unkindly, remind yourself that there are reasons for how you behave – it is not because you are ‘bad’. Write a letter from the part of you that feels the self-hatred, then write back with as much compassion and acceptance as you can, find creative ways to express the self-hatred, through writing songs or poetry, drawing, movement or singing.

Emotional/Mental Health – Depression

Teen depression goes beyond moodiness. It’s a serious health problem that impacts every aspect of a teen’s life. Fortunately, it’s treatable and parents can help. The negative effects of teenage depression go far beyond a melancholy mood. Depression can destroy the essence of your teen’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger. Many rebellious and unhealthy behaviours or attitudes in teenagers can be indications of depression.

Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away. Such attempts are usually a cry for help. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their depression. Unfortunately, substance abuse only makes things worse.   Teens may go online to escape their problems, but excessive smartphone and Internet use only increases their isolation, making them more depressed.  Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviours, such as reckless driving, binge drinking, and unsafe sex.  Some depressed teens—usually boys who are the victims of bullying—can become aggressive and violent.

Teen depression is also associated with a number of other mental health problems, including eating disorders and self-injury. The first step is to learn what teen depression looks like and what to do if you spot the warning signs. Unlike adults, who have the ability to seek assistance on their own, teenagers rely on parents, teachers, or other caregivers to recognize their suffering and get them the help they need. But that isn’t always easy. Signs and symptoms of teen depression can be sadness or hopelessness, Irritability, anger, or hostility, Tearfulness or frequent crying, Withdrawal from friends and family, Loss of interest in activities and Poor school performance, Unexplained aches and pains and Thoughts of death or suicide.

Emotional/Mental health –CAMHS/ELCAS

CAMHS stands for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. CAMHS is the name for the NHS services that assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.CAMHS support covers depression, problems with food, self-harm, abuse, violence or anger, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety, among other difficulties.

There are local NHS CAMHS services around the UK, with teams made up of nurses, therapists, pyschologists, child and adolescent psychiatrists (medical doctors specialising in mental health), support workers and social workers, as well as other professionals. Referrals can come from your parents/carers, a teacher, GP, or yourself if you are old enough (depending on where you live).Within East Lancashire young people attend ELCAS a specialist mental health service for children and young people.

Emotional/Mental Health – Anger

Everyone feels angry sometimes, it is normal and healthy to get angry with good reason. It is how people deal and express that anger that can lead to problems. It is important to do something with angry feelings and not bottle them up, but losing your temper can make things worse.

Recognise the angry feelings and how your body reacts – When angry our bodies experience a flight or fight response due to a surge of adrenaline (a hormone which helps our bodies react to stress). Our teeth can clench, shoulders tense, heart pumps faster, stomach turns, fists clench and muscles tense.

What can I do?

Communicate – sit down and talk your problem through with someone, if you can talk to the person who has made you angry.

Relax – don’t let things you have no control over get you anger, think of ways to distract yourself from the situation. Listen to some music, go for a walk, take slow deep breaths or read a book/play a game.