Categories
Mental Health

The Children’s Mental Health Crisis

Children’s mental health is in sharp decline.  The number of children likely to have a mental health problem has risen by 50% in the last three years from one in nine to one in six.  That’s five children in every classroom.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has taken its toll on young people.  And an estimated quarter of a million children have struggled with the loss of their usual support mechanisms.  Not being able to see friends and family caused the most distress.

But even before the pandemic, there has been a worrying downward trend in children’s happiness.  The latest Good Childhood Report by the Children’s Society reported that an estimated 306,000 10-15 year olds in the UK are unhappy.  That’s over 76% more than ten years ago.  School life and worrying about appearance caused the most unhappiness. 

The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) follows the health and wellbeing of people born around the turn of the century.  The latest sweep of the MCS found that one in four 17 year olds had self-harmed in the last year and 7% had attempted suicide.  With numbers for young people attracted to the same or both genders much higher at 51% for self-harm and 19% for attempted suicide.

How can we support children’s mental health?

Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14 and three quarters by age 18.  Early support is vital, but 75% of the young people who need help don’t get it.  Waiting lists for NHS treatments are long and 34% of those referred are not accepted for treatment as their condition is not considered severe enough.  But children should not have to wait until they are at crisis point to receive help.

Things you can do:

  • If you are a parent or carer worried about a child, talk to them, listen to them and let them know you can work through any issues together.   If they don’t want to talk, try text or email.
  • Speak to your GP for advice.
  • Write to your MP and support the Young Minds Fund the Hubs campaign to increase funding for early mental health and wellbeing hubs for young people.
  • Attend a Youth Mental Health First Aid course and learn more about supporting children’s mental health.
  • Supporting someone struggling with mental health is hard, so make sure you look after yourself.  Take some time every day to do something just for you. 

Categories
Mental Health

Mental Health at Work: Millennials and Generation Z

It may not come as much of a surprise that in a recent report by Deloitte on mental health at work, 48% of Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Generation Z (born 1997-2012) reported that they have felt more stressed since the start of the pandemic.  For many of us this has been a really difficult time.

Worryingly, despite more discussion about mental health in the media in the last 18 months, 60% have not felt able to tell their employers about their increase in stress or anxiety.  Which means that even among the younger workforce, mental health stigma endures.

31% of Millennials and 35% of Gen Zs have taken time off work for mental health reasons. But astonishingly 49% and 47% (respectively) of these have given their employer a different reason for their absence.  And for those who have never requested time off for mental health reasons, 46% and 51% of them said that they would not give their employer the real reason if they did. 

When you look at the figures above, it’s not surprising that one in four Millennials and Gen Zs feel that their employer is poor when it comes to supporting workers to be their true selves.  And nearly four in ten gave their employers a poor grade when it comes to supporting mental health during the pandemic. 

Fear of discrimination due to mental ill health in the workplace is still rife. With 50% of millennials and 53% of Gen Zs believing that this frequently happens.

Prioritising Mental Health at Work

As employees, socially conscious young people are demanding their concerns around mental health and inequality are addressed in the workplace.  In another recent report from The Purpose Pulse, Gen Z and Millennials are clear on diversity and inclusivity which includes mental health. 69% (almost 7 in 10) want employers to encourage them to bring their whole self to work.

Being authentic and being able to show or be your whole self includes being able to discuss concerns about mental health with your employer.  Psychological safety is one of five key elements that allow a team to excel.  Google’s Aristotle study found that when people feel safe and connected they work better together. 

The research also showed that 66% (two thirds) want to work for an organisation that actively promotes diversity and inclusion.

There are set to be rewards for brands that have a clear social purpose and a good record on workers rights.  Over two thirds of young people (68%) are looking to buy from brands that treat their employees well. With 61% saying a brand having a clear social purpose is important in their purchasing decisions. 

Just over two fifths (43%) of Millennials and Gen Z in the UK have boycotted a company over the past 12 months because they don’t agree with their values or behaviour. This is an increase of 9% from last year.

Clearly more needs to be done to end the stigma around mental ill health.  Employers must now make mental health a priority to ensure that workers can be their whole self and to help strike a better work-life balance.

The rewards for doing this are clear.  Not only a happier, healthier and more productive work force but also a more positive image for customers too.

Categories
Mental Health

Sleep and Mental Health

Good sleep is vital to good mental and physical health

Sleep is essential for maintaining good health.  The odd sleepless night may affect your whole day, but consistently not getting enough sleep can have a serious impact on your mental health.  It can affect your ability to concentrate and make good decisions.  It can make you irritable and impatient.  It can cause anxiety and depression and increase your chances of other mental health conditions.  Conversely, having poor mental health can lead to problems with sleep.  It can become a never ending cycle.

In my work as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, one of the main ways I’ve been able to help people is by helping them to sleep and to sleep properly.

What do I mean by sleep properly?

It’s not just how much sleep we get, but the quality of that sleep.  Some of us need more sleep than others but generally most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day.  It’s normal to wake in the night, maybe to go to the loo, but if you can’t get back to sleep quickly, then you may not get enough rest.  The golden rule is that you should awake feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

Many people, however, fall asleep exhausted and wake up feeling tired.  This means that they’re not nourished from their sleep and they may rely on coffee or other stimulants to get through the day.  Others may find it hard to get to sleep in the first place because of worry.  Then if they do sleep it may only be for a couple of hours and they wake unable to fall asleep again.  Some complain of grinding teeth, dental problems, headaches and pain in their jaw when they wake.

So how can you improve the quality of your sleep?

With my clients, I often use movement synchronised with the breath, most likely in a supine position.  I might combine this with long held (gentle) stretches.  After this I may use relaxation techniques such PMR (progressive muscle relaxation), conscious breathing (pranayama) and restorative yoga postures, followed by a long savasana (yoga relaxation pose) where I will give a guided relaxation technique called yoga nidra (sleep of the yogis).

Many people have never experienced such deep relaxation and when they do they want more of it.  It’s like they finally have permission to relax.

Try my yoga nidra for sleep. Do it for five consecutive days and see what difference it makes to your happiness, health and wellbeing.