How families feel youth mental health
It can be tough going, being a teenager.
Navigating your way between childhood and adulthood, changing hormones, bodies and relationships, and the weight of expectation on young shoulders can all be tricky.
More than one in 10 schoolchildren are said to have a diagnosable mental health problem - last year, that figure was said to be closer to one in six as the effects of Covid-19 restrictions, school closures and social isolation all had an impact.
Yet a huge proportion of those young people simply do not get access to the specialist support that can help them manage their mental health and potentially prevent it from escalating into really serious problems.
While the availability of mental health services for young people and the barriers to accessing it are being increasingly reported in the media, one hidden cost of youth mental health is the wider impact it has on families. When a child or young person in a family is struggling, this will have a ripple effect through the whole family, from parents to other siblings.
As a counsellor and having previously worked for a major children’s charity, I’ve seen first hand some of the scale of the difficulty faced by both young people and parents and carers whilst they try and make it through each day - sometimes living with very scary and upsetting symptoms that they may not be able to explain or understand.
Working with parents who are themselves trying to support children through mental ill health, one of the most common issues and the biggest struggle for them is that they feel unable to “fix the problem”. In a way probably quite unlike any other problem they might have faced as parent and child together, there often isn’t a quick fix or a solution that mum or dad can offer or help with. In turn, this can lead huge feelings of guilt and inadequacy; a feeling that they have, somehow, failed their child.
It’s really important to recognise that mental health in families affects everyone - parents, siblings, and other relatives too. The stress and anxiety which can be caused by seeing someone you love struggling is really damaging and, left without support, it can become even more so.
Parents I’ve worked with have told me they often feel like they can’t share how they are feeling with family and friends. They might feel they have to suppress their own struggles because they’re so busy focusing on their child and trying to get through the next days and weeks, one step at a time.
While we at the LionHeart counselling service have always been able to support those adults impacted by their children’s mental health, we haven’t previously been able to offer help with the root cause of those problems.
This is why the partnership that LionHeart has with Open Door is such a valuable one and why we’re so looking forward to this really important expansion in our offer. Combined with our own in-house counselling service, it means that we will be in a position to support adults and young people within the same family for the first time and hopefully improve life for the whole family.
If you feel that this would be helpful to you, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and ask to talk through your options with one of the support team.
Mark Hodson MBACP is one of the LionHeart staff counsellors.
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