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Supporting Young People (And You!)

Whatever our relationship to the children and young people in our care, there will always be ups, downs, and times when worry keeps us up at night. Supporting our youngsters to manage their mental health is one aspect of caring for young people that can feel daunting. 

Lots of young people are far more aware of mental health than we were at their age. It’s mentioned more on TV, schools often talk about it in assemblies, and many YouTubers chat about it in videos and vlogs. We even run our own Education Programme, supported by Little Moons. So, if your youngster goes to a school we work with, then they’ll learn lots about mental health, self-care, and wellbeing, with our support.

Knowing what mental health is, and learning how to cope with it are different things, though. Awareness of mental health may have shifted in the last few years, but the emotions of the dreaded ‘teenage years’ have not. Children will still face friendship difficulties, tricky things will still happen, and young peoples’ hormones will still create situations that challenge everyone involved.

With time, patience, communication, the odd rant and occasional very loud kitchen sing-song, we can learn from one another, and develop healthy habits.

"Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
- Fred Rogers

Understanding Mental Health

Our children and young people may (or may not!) have heard of terms like ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’. Sometimes, even if they have heard of them, they may not know what they mean, may have incorrectly understood what they mean, or might not know how to recognise these feelings in themselves.

Helping our youngsters to understand what mental health is, what different emotions feel like, and how we can cope with the good days and the less-good days, is really important.

Something that’s particularly important with teenagers, is helping them to understand when the emotions they’re feeling are a natural part of the rollercoaster of life, and when they may have tipped into something that we need some extra help with. That’s not to say that ‘expected’ emotions aren’t tricky – they can be right old brain benders, and we all have to learn how to cope with them. But there is a difference between mental health and mental illness, and something we often hear from teachers involved in our education programme, is that students increasingly worry about being mentally unwell, when they’re actually coping with the whirlwind of emotions that come with being a young person.

Mental Health Is A Sliding Scale

When we hear the term ‘mental health‘, our minds often go straight to thinking about mental illness and if we’ve never experienced mental ill health, we don’t think the conversation applies to us. But it does, we all have mental health. The term ‘mental health’ encompasses a broader spectrum of experiences than mental illness. We can have good, as well as poor, mental health, and also be somewhere in between – our mental health is interchangeable, mental health is a sliding scale.

Understanding The Difference Between Depression And Sadness

The question: ‘do I have depression or am I sad?’, is a common one. It can be difficult to work out whether we’re experiencing sadness – a human emotion, or depression – a medical condition. Asking ‘Dr Google’ can leave us feeling even more confused, especially as sadness is something those with depression do experience. The terms ‘blues’ and ‘depressed’ are sometimes bandied about in a flippant way too, which just adds to the confusion we may feel.

Understanding The Difference Between Nervousness And Anxiety

Sometimes it can be hard to work out whether we’re experiencing nervousness or anxiety. Nervousness is a human emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Anxiety can be a diagnosable medical condition. We often turn to Google in a bid to work out what we’re living with, but that can leave us feeling even more confused because there can be so many different pieces of information flying about and because we often experience nervousness as part of anxiety.

"For every reason it’s not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded."
- Jack Canfield

Supporting Young People: Mental Health

We all have mental health – so we all have to learn how to manage it in a healthy way.

Children and young people have a lot to cope with. Ever-changing social situations, education, social media, first relationships, identity, first jobs, big life changes, huge decisions, physical changes… the list goes on.

It can be an overwhelmingly exciting and exhilarating time, and it can be a confusing, frustrating, and anxious time.

Emotions can change faster than the weather. New, confusing, situations present themselves constantly. Boundaries can become something to push as far as possible. Friends don’t seem to act in a logical way. The pressure of school and just general ‘life’ can pile up.

We all struggle with our mental health at times. Whether we’re 2 or 92, we have big emotions that we’re not always sure how to manage.

Sometimes, we need a listening ear. At other times, we might need some new “coping” ideas, or the occasional self-care prompt. Our goal, is to help the young people in our care, to try out different tools until they find some that help them to manage how they feel.

The Difference Between Hearing And Listening

Hearing what someone says, and listening to their words, are not the same thing. There are fundamental differences between them. Listening can be harder work than hearing, but it’s important to have people in our lives who listen to us and to listen to them in return.

Helping Our Children To Understand Self-Care

Self-care is something that most of us naturally do in our lives to some extent. On top of that, many of us consciously make sure that we build extra self-care time into our days, too. We might want to explain self-care to our children and encourage them to build it into their lives as well. Explaining the concept of self-care to our children can be tricky, whether they be our own children, a more extended family member such as a niece, nephew, cousin or grandchild, or children we look after as a nanny, babysitter or childminder.

15 Self-Care Ideas For Children

For those of us who look after children in some capacity, we’ve probably read a fair few articles and books over our time in the hope of raising them to be healthy, well-rounded individuals. The concept of ‘self-care‘ can be a tricky one to explain to little ones – it’s a broad topic, interchangeable as life changes and evolves. By gently guiding and encouraging our children to embrace different aspects of self-care, we can help them to build it in as part of their life from a young age, without having to explain exactly what ‘self-care’ is.

Supporting Our Children Through Anxious Times

Supporting our children through anxious times can tug at all of the heartstrings and flood our minds with worries such as ‘am I doing enough’s’. Though we often wish we could, we can’t wave a magic wand and ‘fix’ it for them. But we can support them to cope.

What Self-Soothing Means And 9 Ways To Do It

It might not be a concept we’re familiar with nor might we know what sorts of things might soothe us, but at times when we feel particularly anxious or distressed, self-soothing can be a useful part of our mental health toolkit.

The Emotional Skills It's Important To Teach Our Children

If we mention the word ‘education’, many people will think of the 3r’s – Reading, wRiting, and aRithmatic. But these aren’t the only things that our children need to learn. Teaching emotional skills might not be something we consider, but learning them is just as important learning as hard facts (if not more so!).

What I Mean When I Say I Don't Know How I Am

“How are you?” is a question many of us are familiar with. It’s probably the question we get asked more often than any other. Many of us automatically respond with ‘fine thanks, you?’, because that’s the response we’ve learned to give. It’s the response we heard the adults around us trot out each time they were asked how they were; they probably learned it from the adults around them.

People are becoming increasingly aware of this. Various campaigns encourage us to ‘ask twice‘ or to ask ‘how are you, really?’.

The problem is, we don’t always have an answer. We don’t always know how we are.

Depression: Coping With Change

Change is a funny thing; it’s inevitable because nothing stays the same forever but it’s also really unsettling and hard to cope with.

We might be starting a new school, changing year groups, or moving to university. For others, change could involve moving house, moving jobs, or starting new hobbies. Parents might be waving their little ones off to primary school or their slightly bigger ones off to university. We may be making different lifestyle choices, asserting our boundaries or replacing old habits, with new ones. Change can be good but the transition can still feel uncomfortable.

Self-Care Starter Kit

We’ve put together a free kit to help you get your self-care mojo back.

The kit includes the following:

What is self-care? And why is it so important?
5 instant self-care things which can be done from your bed
Self-care alphabet – breaking it down into teensy tiny bites
Looking after yourself on a budget
Caring for yourself from the inside out
Self-care worksheet – to help you discover what self-care looks like for YOU

Teen Mental Health In Tricky Times

The last few years have been tough on us all, impacting everyone’s mental health. Teen mental health is no exception.

Young people have faced some challenges that adults haven’t. Exam uncertainty, grade mishaps, missing peers just at the time when peer relationships become all the more important and coping with remote/not remote/a bit remote schooling. Lots of us haven’t had a “normal” school year since 2018/19. It’s been tough.

We were delighted when Nix, a year 11 student, offered to help us write this blog.

"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go, they merely determine where you start."
-Nido Qubein

Supporting Young People: Education

For the vast majority of young people, education is a huge part of life. From nursery through to university graduation and beyond, each stage of education brings different challenges. These challenges occur no matter where in the world we’re educated, or what type of education we receive. Sometimes those challenges are social, sometimes they’re academic, but all of them can impact our mental health.

Getting through education can sometimes feel like an obstacle course; and the obstacles don’t stop coming. As much as we might like to, these obstacles aren’t always things we can shift. Sometimes, all we can do is help the young people in our care to pack their self-care toolkit full-to-bursting with tips and tricks to ride those wellbeing waves.

At Blurt, we run an Education Programme, supported by Little Moons, to equip primary school students with skills to help them cope with life’s ups and downs, but mental health education doesn’t stop at school. We can all help those in our care to cope with whatever it is that life, and education, throw our way.

First Day Of School

First days of school are anxious times. Whether we’re starting a new school, it’s our first day of school ever, we’re going into a new class, or we’re returning after the holidays, our anxiety can spike.

Thinking through our school day before it happens can help us to manage our anxiety. Having an image of how our day goes can help it to feel less unpredictable and scary. We can also pop some predictable anchors into our day when it comes to things we have control over, such as how we travel to school, what we eat for lunch, and which TV show we watch when we get home.

This ‘First Day Of School’ worksheet comes from our Education Programme, supported by Little Moons. We know how important it is to manage transitions, so it’s a vital part of the work we do.

7 Steps For Dealing With Overwhelming Paperwork

Whether the paperwork at hand is school admin or homework, there are few things more horrendous than complicated, overwhelming paperwork.

We have a plan though. We’ve got seven steps to get you through that overwhelmingly large pile of documents. It probably won’t be pleasant, but it will be manageable. Open up all the post you’ve been scared to open. Sort your junk mail from your Must Do This mail. Embrace its scariness for a minute, then roll up your sleeves…

Being Mindful Of Our Digital Boundaries

These days, many of us have mobile smartphones and multiple social media accounts. This means that we have access to a wealth of information at our fingertips but it also means that we’re contactable in more ways, and in more instant ways, than ever. The amount of ‘buzz’ we receive from the digital world can, at times, become overwhelming. It can exacerbate our anxiety and leave us feeling drained. Setting digital boundaries can help us to manage the way we interact with the digital world, which can ultimately help us to manage our mental health.

11 Ways We Can Manage Anxiety When (We're) In Public

Being in public can make it much harder to manage our levels of anxiety even for those of us who’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time and have developed some coping strategies to help us to manage the way we feel.

When we’re in public, not only are we likely to have higher levels of anxiety due to being around more people and potentially in less-familiar places, but we might also find that we can’t use some of our existing coping strategies because we’re not able to control our environment to the same extent that we can at home. We’re also less likely to have things that we can use to distract ourselves.

Skin-Picking And Hair-Pulling: Some Lesser Known Symptoms Of Anxiety

Skin-picking, hair-pulling and other body-focused, repetitive behaviours can all be anxiety-related. They’re far more common than many of us realise, but we often feel shame associated with these behaviours, so we don’t talk about them. Because we all find it so difficult to talk about, it can feel like we’re the only person in the world going through it, intensifying our shame and sense of isolation.

Depression: Summer Holiday Coping Tips For Students

As a student, the summer holidays can be daunting. The long weeks can stretch out in front of us and feel endless. Everyone around us seems happy, and the sun is shining so it can feel like we have no excuse not to be happy! We might have left a support system behind when returning home after studying away, perhaps returning to a family who don’t know about, or understand, how we’re feeling. It can feel really lonely.

It’s absolutely okay not to be jumping for joy at the prospect of the summer holidays, though, you are definitely not alone.

Depression: Coping With Change

Change is a funny thing; it’s inevitable because nothing stays the same forever but it’s also really unsettling and hard to cope with.

We might be starting a new school, changing year groups, or moving to university. For others, change could involve moving house, moving jobs, or starting new hobbies. Parents might be waving their little ones off to primary school or their slightly bigger ones off to university. We may be making different lifestyle choices, asserting our boundaries or replacing old habits, with new ones. Change can be good but the transition can still feel uncomfortable.

Taking Care Of Yourself At University

Going to university is one of those really big life-changing events. It can simultaneously be exciting and unsettling, a dream come true and a really overwhelming time.

For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve lived away from our primary caregivers and had full control over our lives. The choices are plentiful, the responsibility baton is firmly in our hands, it’s up to us to create healthy boundaries, and we can sometimes feel like a fish out of water; moving from a town where we had a friendship circle to a place where we’re meeting new people and making new connections.

Talking – even merely thinking – about the things that make us feel vulnerable can feel a bit icky but we wanted to reassure you, that if you’re feeling out of sorts about this new chapter, you’re absolutely not alone. One in three young people set off to university, and most of those will be experiencing similar concerns, insecurities and feeling a bit wobbly about it.

Taking Care Of Yourself This Exam Season

Exam season is always high-pressured; it’s am amalgamation of all of the things we’ve learned and the expectation that we’ll perform at our best. When we add depression to the mix, with its energy-sapping, memory-reducing, concentration-lapsing, and motivation-sucking ways, then it’s easy to see how exam season can become a source of substantial worry, anxiety and stress.

"People with a mental illness aren't mentally weak. In fact, many of them are incredibly strong."
- Amy Morin

Supporting Young People: Mental Illness

One in six children and young people aged 5-16 live with a probable mental problem. This means that they’re experiencing symptoms which would probably meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental illness.

There is so much to cope with in the world we live in, and there has been a notable rise in children and young people with mental health problems.

Having a mental health problem at a young age (or any age!) isn’t an easy thing to cope with, but it’s also not a hopeless situation. Through learning new coping skills, communicating, and getting the right help at the right time, we can learn how to live with, and perhaps recover from, the problems that we experience.

Talking To Your Child About Their Depression

Having a child with depression, however old they are, is difficult. We know how hard it can be to try and find the right words to say. It can be really daunting to try and talk about anything depression-related because we worry about saying the wrong thing and making things worse. We don’t want to alienate our child or make them feel like they can’t talk to us. Often we avoid the topic of depression altogether because it’s just too hard.

Practical Ways To Support A Child With Depression

Having a child with depression isn’t easy and it can be really hard to know what to do or say. Often we want to do something to ‘fix’ it. There isn’t an easy fix to depression, but there are things that you can do to help.

We’ve gathered a few ideas of some practical things you could do to support your child – not every idea will work for every child, the same idea may well be loved by one child and hated by another. Often it’s a case of trial and error, but hopefully the ideas below will give you a few things to try.

Teachers: How to Support Young People With Depression

Around three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. While awareness of mental health issues in the education system is improving, the amount of support both teachers and students receive can vary from school to school.

For teachers, the welfare and well-being of students is obviously a priority.  As such teachers will want to feel confident in supporting young people with mental health issues.  If you’re a teacher, this post may help.

Depression: Why We Push People Away

When we have depression, we oftentimes find ourselves withdrawing from our loved ones and sometimes, pushing people away. We don’t always know why, and it’s not always a conscious thing either, it’s confusing, painful and unsettling.

It can be confusing for those around us, too, because if we don’t know why we’re pushing them away, they won’t know why either.

9 Things You Can Do For Someone You Love If They're Having Suicidal Thoughts

It can be really hard when someone you love is feeling suicidal; it can come as a bit of a shock and it can be hard to know what to do or say. It can be difficult to know how to help.

What We Want You To Know About Self-Damaging Behaviours

When we’re trying to cope with the stresses and strains of life, there may be times when we turn to self-damaging behaviours. The use of these behaviours is often highly stigmatised and this stigma can be worsened by a lack of understanding.

Mental Illness: Preparing For Your First Appointment

If we’re worried about our mental health, it’s often helpful to speak to a healthcare professional. But booking and attending an appointment can be a real challenge. The closer the appointment gets, the more intense our anxiety around it can become. Preparing for it can help us to feel more in control, and to reduce our anxiety to a more manageable level.

A Letter To Parents Who Have A Child With Depression

We know that things are really tough for you right now. Perhaps your child has just been diagnosed with depression, or maybe they’ve had it for a while. They might not really be a child any more, they might be a teen, a young adult, or maybe even a fully-fledged grown-up, but they’re still your child.

Explaining Depression To A Child

Depression impacts all parts of our life. It can affect our work, our day-to-day routines, and the way we relate with other people. When we have children in our lives, having depression can be especially difficult.  We feel guilty that we can’t always be fun and playful. We might be snappy, or withdraw.

If depression is affecting how we interact with a child, we should consider telling them that we are unwell. Children are perceptive – they will notice changes in our behaviour; and if these changes aren’t explained, they may come to believe they’re somehow responsible for them.

“It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.”
- Amy Poehler

Sometimes Life Is Tough

It’s not just our children and young people who can face wonky mental health. We all go through bad patches, with one in four adults experiencing at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year.

Caring for little ones (or slightly bigger ones) can be really tough. It brings an extra, often-wonderful, dimension to life, but that additional dimension comes with its own set of challenges.

When we have children and young people in our care, our mental health struggles can come with an extra dollop of guilt. There’s a misconception that caring for youngsters creates a magical force-field that prevents all suicidal thoughts. If we never heard “your kids would miss you…” ever again, it would be too soon.

There is absolutely no shame in having mental health struggles, or suicidal thoughts, and caring for youngsters. None of us chooses to be mentally unwell. We don’t wake up one day and decide to have suicidal or self-damaging thoughts. This cloak of shame can make everything feel so much worse, too. Silence makes space for our negative thoughts to grow.

The good news is, we’re not alone. There are people out there who can support us, and we’re not the only one to feel the way we do. Others have been there in the past and will be in the future. We deserve support.

Be kind to yourself.

The Difference Between Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression

During your pregnancy, you’ll have been made aware of something called the ‘Baby Blues’. The Baby Blues are a completely natural, albeit not very pleasant, part of being a new Mum.

Google Searches: How Does Postnatal Depression...?

Being a new parent can be a somewhat daunting experience.

Often we will turn to Google when we have questions about postnatal depression, but that can give us lots of different and conflicting answers which can be very confusing and scary. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most popular searches on postnatal depression to try and provide some answers.

13 Symptoms of Post-Natal Depression that are Hard to Talk About

There’s nothing that can quite prepare you for how incredibly daunting and emotional it is, to become a new parent.

Feeling a bit wobbly and having some “baby blues” is entirely normal, but some of us experience post-natal depression, which can be very scary and really hard to talk about. But we are not alone in feeling this way and we are certainly not alone in living with symptoms of post-natal depression.

Talking about these symptoms can help us to get the support that we deserve.

Coping With Post-Natal Anxiety

Many new parents feel anxious about their new role and experiences and responsibilities. But when we live with post-natal anxiety, our levels of anxiety can boil over and begin to negatively affect our lives.

A Self-Care Guide For Parents

Most of us will have heard of the term ‘self-care‘ by now, but for many of us – especially parents – the notion of self-care can seem like a lovely idea in principle, yet a tad unrealistic and inaccessible. Slotting it into the chaos and unpredictability of our lives can feel impossible, especially when children are thrown into the mix.

What we need are practical, down-to-earth ideas for incorporating self-care into our busy, sticky-fingered, never-ending-pile-of-washing, can’t-even-go-to-the-toilet-in-peace lives.

Coping With Depression When You Have Young Children

Coping with depression is difficult, but when we have young children to look after, too, it can be incredibly tricky to make space for what we need when we have dependents who rely on us to have their needs met.

A Letter To Parents Who Have Depression

Dear Parent Who Has Depression,

You are not alone. 4-10% of the UK population experience depression at some point in their life time. You’re definitely not the only parent to have depression. You are not alone.

Your depression is not your fault. You didn’t choose to have depression. You don’t want it to be a part of your life. Your depression is not your fault.

When Depression Brings With It An Avalanche Of Guilt

When we have depression, it often comes with a huge dollop of all-consuming guilt. The guilt plays right into the hands of depression, which feeds back into our guilt….and so on. It’s a horrible never-ending cycle of anguish.

To Our Carers And Supporters: Thank You

To our Carers and Supporters, thank you for caring for us and supporting us. We know that it can sometimes take its toll. It can be hard for us to know how to thank you and mightn’t always say thank you enough.

“The gentlest reminder: You might not need to read another self-help book, attend another training, or bookmark another Instagram post as much as you need to listen to, trust, and practice what you already know. What if the answer you’re looking for is actually within you already?”
- Lisa Olivera

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