Childline raises concerns over mental health of children

Childline has raised concerns about the mental health of children and young people after delivering over 50,000 counselling sessions since the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Training can help raise awareness of anxietyThe NSPCC’s confidential charity helpline delivered 54,926 counselling sessions to children and young people between April and December 2020.

This represents a 16% increase in the average number of mental health counselling sessions delivered to children aged 11 and under and a 10% increase in counselling sessions about loneliness across all age groups.

Childline has called for more volunteers to join the helpline and help to support children and young people as the pandemic continues.

It reports that children contacting its service frequently talked about experiencing loneliness, low mood and self-esteem, depression and anxiety, signifying the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns has had on the mental health of young people.

Some children spoke of feeling isolated or overwhelmed due to fears about family members contracting the virus, school closures or cancelled exams.

Others said they felt cut off from their support networks and were missing family and friends.

Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded the helpline and is its president, said it was “absolutely imperative” that Childline is available for children who need it.

She commented: “Many young people, especially those in unsafe homes, are feeling desperately anxious and depressed. School can be the only safe haven they know, and without that support they feel entirely alone. For them, Childline is literally a life-line.

“But the service urgently needs more volunteers to listen to and support children, and more funds to pay for their calls and online contacts, and for that we depend upon the generosity and compassion of the public. It is the NSPCC’s mission to make 2021 a better year for children, and with your help we can make this dream a reality.”

You can learn about ways to help Childline and the NSPCC on their website.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers, as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services. Their courses include Safeguarding Children, Understanding Mental Health and Anxiety Awareness.

They can also provide accredited trainers to deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid training, certificated by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England.

A trainer from FRT says: “There are many hidden victims of the pandemic, and it is saddening that measures introduced to keep the nation safe and healthy may have contributed to children experiencing much higher levels of mental ill health.

“It’s so important that this issue is being discussed and that these children receive the help and support they need.

“Anyone who works with children and young people should complete appropriate mental health training so that they can spot the early warning signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Research reveals men’s mental health under pressure

Research by mental health charity Mind has revealed that men feel worried or low more regularly than they did 10 years ago.

Covid is magnifying inequalitiesMind compared new polling data from YouGov with results from the same survey conducted in 2009 to see how men’s experiences of mental health issues have changed over the past decade.

They found that 2 in 5 men (43%) now regularly feel worried or low, compared to 37% in 2009.

The study, entitled ‘Get It Off Your Chest: Men’s mental health 10 years on’ was commissioned by Mind as part of its charity partnership with the English Football League (EFL).

It has revealed a mixed bag of results, showing that, while some progress has been made with men’s mental health, they still face significant challenges and that those with current worries or concerns are now twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts (10%, compared to 5% in 2009).

The report suggests that, in general, men now feel more able to speak up about mental health problems and are more likely to seek help.

In fact, today men are almost three times more likely to seek the help of a therapist if they feel worried or low for two weeks or more, than they were in 2009. They are now also equally as willing as women to seek support from their GP.

These findings suggest that the stigma around seeking support is easing for men, perhaps in part due to awareness campaigns such as ‘Time to Change’ which have focused on challenging the stereotype of the ‘strong, silent’ man.

More treatment options needed

However, those with current worries were also found to still be relying on damaging coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol alone (13% versus 9%) and taking recreational drugs (4% versus 1%).

Meanwhile, healthcare professionals may also need to consider offering alternative treatments to medication for men.

While men are now more likely to ask for help, the report suggests they are not always receiving a range of treatment options to suit them. Almost a third of respondents (32%) said they would prefer face-to-face therapy if they didn’t want to be prescribed medication, while physical activity or a social activity were preferred by 15% and 14%, respectively.

Mind previously launched their Get Set to Go programme, which supports people with mental health problems to get more active.

In 2019, the programme expanded when Mind partnered with the EFL, and participants reported that it not only increased their ability to take part in physical activity but also improved their social support structures and self-esteem.

Impact of social media

This latest study also found that social media’s influence over the mental health and wellbeing of men has grown significantly.

While social media was present in 2009, more than 1 in 3 men (37%) now report that it has a negative impact on how they feel.

More men are now also worried about their appearance – with 23% saying this was a concern today, compared to 18% in 2009. Among those aged 18-24, this figure rose to 39%. Concerns over appearance may be linked to the rise of social media.

Three key asks

In the report, Mind asks the government, NHS and employers to take steps to better support the mental health of men.

Their three key proposals are:

  1. The NHS co-produce mental health services with communities, including men, to make sure that effective support is available locally and meets men’s needs.
  2. Greater access for men to alternative treatments to support mental health, such as physical exercise, walking groups, gardening groups or learning activities on prescription. Mind cites the NHS Long Term Plan, in which NHS England has pledged that 900,000 more people will have access to ‘social prescribing’ by 2024.
  3. The Government should set both national and local targets for suicide reduction, with men continuing to be a key target audience for suicide prevention action.

Paul Farmer, the Chief Executive of Mind, said:

“It’s really positive that men are more likely to seek help from the NHS and talk to friends and family about their mental health than they were 10 years ago. As a society, we have become more open about mental health in the last decade as campaigns such as Time to Change and Mind’s partnership with the English Football League (EFL) have helped to shift stigmatising attitudes and behaviours, and this may be beginning to filter through.”

Despite this, he added: “Men still tell us that they struggle to get the help they need for their mental health. Sometimes they don’t know where to go for help or what’s on offer might not be suitable for them.

“The challenges facing men are more likely to be compounded by the pandemic as well as the economic recession, not least because we that men’s mental health tends to be more affected by unemployment.”

He reiterated the report’s calls for government and NHS action to ensure that men have access to a better range of mental health services to meet their needs.

He explained:

“Ultimately, men are still three times as likely to take their own life as women, so there is much more to do to make sure men can ask for help and get the right support when they need it and before reaching crisis point.”

Awareness and support

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider.

They work with thousands of organisations from all industry sectors and throughout the UK to deliver a wide and diverse range of training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their range of mental health training courses includes the Level 2 Award in Understanding Mental Health, which is a full day, externally accredited course that includes a course companion manual and provides people with an in-depth understanding of mental health problems, recovery and prevention.

They can also provide courses in Anxiety Awareness, Anxiety and Phobias Awareness, Bipolar Disorder Awareness, Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Mental Health Awareness for social care, Managing Your Stress, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

FRT can also provide trainers who are accredited to deliver Mental Health First Aid training courses, including Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT explains: “For many years men have battled almost silently with their mental health, with male suicide rates rising. But, finally, it seems that the tide is beginning to turn and men are finding it a bit easier to open up and seek help when they are struggling. This is really significant, and positive news.

“Providing training and information, and raising awareness, is one crucial way in which we can increase understanding and support for mental health matters, and can ensure more people – both men and women – come forward when they need help. It also helps educate people about how they can manage their own mental health and build their emotional resilience.

“Support, understanding, and positive measures to improve mental health and wellbeing are needed now more than ever.”

For more information about the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300, or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

For tips on supporting your mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, download our free infographic.

Study shows pandemic’s impact on mental health

A new research study has found that key indicators of poor mental health and wellbeing – such as loneliness, suicidality and not coping well with stress – have worsened among UK adults since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The four-nation longitudinal study, led by the Mental Health Foundation and its university partners, has questioned UK adults at regular intervals since the first lockdown began in March 2020.

It suggests that, despite some improvements in a few areas being recorded over the summer, the longer-term trend is towards a deepening distress among UK adults.

Now, the researchers are calling for a whole government COVID-mental health response and recovery plan.

Their latest wave of research questioned 4,436 adults and was carried out in November after the announcement of successful vaccine trials. It found that, since March, loneliness has gone from affecting 1 in 10 adults across the UK to 1 in 4.

In addition, fewer adults are saying that they are “coping well with the stress of the pandemic.” In April, 73% agreed that they were coping well, but by November this had fallen to 62%.

Most alarmingly, more adults are reporting experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings.

In April, 8% of adults surveyed revealed that they had experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings within the previous two weeks, but in November this was 13%.

Focus on prevention

The Mental Health Foundation explains that, while it is still too early to judge whether the pandemic has affected suicide rates, suicides are potentially preventable, if we act now rather than wait for the rate to rise.

They add that most people who experience suicidal thoughts and feelings do not necessarily go on to attempt suicide or take their own life.

Despite this, it is clear that we are at a pivotable moment when it comes to mental health in the UK.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, Director for England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation, commented:

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we were very concerned that the longer it went on, the more serious the risks to our mental health would become.

“Unfortunately, this latest data appears to support that fear. It is clear that, for millions of people, distress is not going away and on some important measures, problems are getting worse.

“There is no vaccine to protect our mental health against the consequences of the pandemic. Instead, we need to focus on prevention – including tackling the underlying causes of mental ill-health, such as rising unemployment, poverty and isolation.

“This is why we need a long-term COVID-mental health recovery plan for England now, and full implementation of devolved nations’ mental health recovery plans.”

Pandemic has ‘eroded’ mental health

4th November 2020 is National Stress Awareness DayThe Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic long-term study, which began in March 2020, is led by the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with the universities of Cambridge, Swansea, Strathclyde, Queen’s Belfast and De Montfort. It has repeatedly surveyed 4,000+ UK adults throughout the crisis.

Some indicators of distress have been shown to plateau or ease since March, and these include feelings of hopelessness, which was at 18% in both March and November, worry about financial matters, which fell from 42% to 28%, and feeling anxious or worried, which has fallen gradually from 62% in March to 45% last month.

Professor Tine Van Bortel, from the University of Cambridge and De Montfort University Leicester, said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has eroded many of the things that normally protect our mental health – from social connectedness to financial security and hope for the future.

“Prolonged stress and loneliness negatively impact mental health and also contribute significantly towards poor physical health. These issues will become more apparent over time and will cause a huge burden for individuals, communities, health services and economies.”

Speaking of the need for a mental health recovery plan, she added: “While the government has produced a policy paper for England on staying mentally well this winter, we need a more long-term strategy to address the mental health effects of the pandemic, as well as implementation of the devolved administrations’ COVID-19 mental health plans.

“Taking a proactive, long-term, preventative approach to poor mental health is the best way to avoid people reaching crisis point and developing longer-term health problems. It is critical that the government takes a comprehensive and inclusive, whole-system wellbeing approach to pandemic recovery.”

Response and recovery

The Mental Health Foundation has published its own recommendations for a whole-government COVID-19 Mental Health Response and Recovery Plan, which entails a broad approach to mental health.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider.

They work with thousands of organisations from all industry sectors and throughout the UK to deliver a wide and diverse range of training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their range of mental health training courses includes the Level 2 Award in Understanding Mental Health, which is a full day, externally accredited course that includes a course companion manual and provides people with an in-depth understanding of mental health problems, recovery and prevention.

They can also provide courses in Anxiety Awareness, Anxiety and Phobias Awareness, Bipolar Disorder Awareness, Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace, Mental Health Awareness for social care, Managing Your Stress, Self-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

FRT can also provide trainers who are accredited to deliver Mental Health First Aid training courses, including Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

Working days are lost due to stress, depression and anxietyA trainer from FRT explains: “Mental health is finally getting something like equal recognition with physical health. People are talking more openly and the stigma is gradually being broken down, though it can still exist in some areas.

“Providing training and information, and raising awareness, is one crucial way in which we can increase understanding and support for mental health matters, and can ensure more people come forward when they need help. It also helps educate people about how they can manage their own mental health and build their emotional resilience.

“It’s really important to be mindful about how you’re feeling and what you can do to support positive mental wellbeing each and every day, especially during these extremely challenging times where it feels like we’re losing so much.

“Support, understanding, and positive measures to improve mental health and wellbeing are needed now more than ever.”

For more information about the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300, or send an e-mail to info@firstresponsetraining.com.

For tips on supporting your mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic, download our free infographic.

Calls to end school mental health support ‘lottery’

A new study has called for better mental health support in schools in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Many schools lack mental health support servicesReleased just ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10th October, the study from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that fewer than half of state schools in England offer on-site counselling for pupils, and that such services are less likely to be available in schools now than in 2010.

This is despite the fact that the number of young people struggling with mental health issues has risen sharply over the last ten years.

Schools in the most deprived areas were found to be most likely to be missing mental health support, with access to services remaining a “lottery” for many young people.

Those who work with children tend to agree that a further rise in youth mental ill health is now almost inevitable following the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and the impact of national and local lockdowns.

The IPPR is therefore calling for a national entitlement to mental health support in schools.

On-site support critical

School based services are vital for pupilsThey surveyed nearly 7,000 teachers across both state and private schools and then weighted the results to reflect the national picture. They found that just 48% of respondents said their schools offered counselling on site.

Access to counselling services in school is critical because it reduces the amount of lesson time a pupil may miss if they have to travel to other sites for support. Staff are also better able to understand if a pupil is dealing with an ongoing issue.

Teachers, parents and headteachers also reported that they frequently found it a challenge to gain access to support services required for children.

‘Unprecedented upheaval’

The government has said it is investing in mental health and children’s wellbeing.

Labour MP for Hemsworth, John Trickett, has been campaigning with counselling organisations regarding the issue, however, and expressed anger at the lack of access.

He said:

“The fact that some schools in more deprived areas haven’t been able to offer counselling and other pastoral services isn’t surprising in this context, but it is wrong, unfair and should make people’s blood boil.

“This generation of school and college children have already experienced unprecedented upheaval in the last six months.”

The General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Paul Whiteman, said that mental health support for young people was a “lottery.”

He explained that mental health teams were a vital factor in improving access to mental health support, but that progress to develop such teams had slowed.

He said:

“It has never been more important for young people to get the support they need, but it still appears that it is a lottery. The government urgently needs to step in to correct this.”

Inequalities in society

Waiting lists for NHS support can be very lengthy and young people frequently need to be severely impaired before they are approved for help.

Associate Director of the IPPR and lead author of the report, Harry Quilter Pinner, said the pandemic had highlighted inequalities in our society which posed a “profound risk” to children.

He explained:

“Many schools are unable to provide the support young people need to thrive.

“Without urgent government action to ensure every school can provide vital services such as counselling and after-school clubs, there is a profound risk that the legacy of the pandemic will be even bigger educational and health inequalities.

“The government has started to put in place some support for young people in the wake of the national lockdown. But it can and should go further – the pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to ‘build back better’.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said it had rolled out an £8 million training programme to enable schools to access the knowledge and resources required to support children and young people, as well as teachers and parents.

September saw the launch of the Wellbeing for Education Return programme. It aims to support staff working in schools and colleges to respond to the additional needs that some children and young people may have as a direct result of the pandemic. It includes help to deal with bereavement, stress, trauma or anxiety.

Trained to offer support

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider, delivering a wide and diverse range of courses to early years, childcare and schools, health and social care organisations and businesses in all other industries.

Their course portfolio includes training in key topics such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus areas.

They can provide externally accredited Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, delivered by approved MHFA trainers as well as additional courses in Understanding Mental Health, Anxiety Awareness, Bipolar Disorder Awareness and more.

A trainer from FRT says:

“Providing children and young people with early access to effective mental health support is vital, and could be game changing.

“Around 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5-16 years old have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, but 70% of adolescents who experience mental health issues currently do not receive appropriate support early enough.

“Research shows that 50% of all mental health problems are actually established by the age of 14, and 75% by age 24, so the right support at an early stage could really improve the nation’s mental health overall.

“Raising awareness and understanding, and providing people with the skills to provide support through training is one key way in which we can ensure an early and effective response to mental health problems for all.”

For more information about the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or e-mail info@firstresponsetraining.com.

Further facts about mental health can be found on the Mental Health Foundation’s website.