Why Are Our Youngsters Suffering with Mental Health Issues?

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May Mental Health In the UK we have a whole month focussed on Mental Health. There have been a multitude of programmes, articles and blogs.

One thing that has really shocked me this month were the articles about how much youngsters are suffering with mental health issues, even really young children as young as 5. According to research for BBC School Report, half of teenagers with mental wellbeing issues try to cope alone. And a third said they were not confident enough to speak to a teacher. Teachers say they are given no awareness training on mental health issues and how to help students. UK figures revealed that Childline gave 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016-17 – a rise of 11% over two years.

It was good to see that some forward thinking schools are training parents, pupils and staff how to cope with stress. The aim is to provide early intervention before mental health problems develop.

I wondered why the issues are so much more prevalent that when I was at school and what had changed. The problem seems to be several fold from the concerns expressed by the teachers I spoke to.

  • With a continuous focus on how schools are performing, this is translating to pressure on pupils to be continually tested throughout the year to prove performance.
  • Social media is a massive contributing factor, with pupils continually focussed on how well their peers are doing and then putting pressure on themselves to do better. Then there is the cyber bullying.
  • There is a worry about good grades to get university places and jobs thereafter.

I am not saying I have a solution for all the problems that teenagers are experiencing right now. However, I can advise how to cope with the pressure they feel, whether it is any of the above circumstances or ones that I have not listed.

Try teaching this short meditation to your children and perhaps give it a try yourself, it really helps manage stress.

  • Find a comfortable spot, where it is quiet and you feel safe.
  • Put on some gentle music in the background that helps you feel calm and grounded.
  • As you rest your body now rest your eyes. Take your hands and make a cup so that the tips of the fingers cross over, then place the palms of your hands comfortably one over each eye so they block out all the light. The crossed fingers should lightly touch the forehead. Take a few moments to rest the eyes and just focus on the dark inky blackness and then close the eyes. (It can be more comfortable to sit on a chair to do this and rest your elbows on the table to support your arms comfortably or if you are sitting on the floor support your arms with a couple of cushions)
  • Now focus on your breath as you breathe in and out.
  • As you breathe in say, in your mind, the word “SO”.
  • As you breathe out say, in your mind, the word “HUN”.
  • Breathe gently and focus on diaphragm gently rising and falling.
  • When you are ready open your eyes and come back into the room.

Spend just 5 minutes each day at a time that suits you. Slowly build up to about 15 to 20 minutes each day. More if you want to. You will find this helps still the mind and resets the body. You might even find that you feel refreshed and energised afterwards.
This exercise is very good to do if you are studying. Take a break every 90 minutes and do a few minutes resting the eyes and focussing on your breathing.

I do 30 minutes myself. I have a music compilation on my iPod that the tracks add up to 30 minutes. That way I know that I can completely relax and when the music is finished my 30 minutes is up and I am ready to go back to what I was doing. Sometimes I prefer to do this in the morning before I start a busy day, sometimes in the middle of work to take a break and sometimes at the end of the day to wind down. Occasionally I might do it at different intervals for a shorter time.

If you spend more than 90 minute segments working on something then most of the time you might notice that you become less effective. You will be amazed how much more receptive your brain is to revision or work after taking a break. If you were working on a problem that you just can’t quite seem to grasp you will be utterly amazed at how often the answer will just suddenly present itself during a meditation.

Well I am off to follow my own advice and spend 30 minutes!!