Mental Health and Mental Health Illness - What is Mental Health?
What is mental health?
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. We all have mental health. Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and act. It also impacts on how we cope, interact and form relationships with others, as well as our daily functioning.
Our mental health can vary and be dependent on a number of factors which may include;
- The number of demands and stressors we have
- Our physical health
- Significant life events
- How much sleep we get
- Relationships with other people
- Our diet/ nutritional intake
- Environmental, societal and cultural factors
- How much we engage in leisure activities, hobbies and interests
What is mental illness?
- A mental illness (which can also be referred to as having a mental health disorder) is an illness that affects the way people think feel, behave or interact with others.
- Mental health is different from mental illness.
- Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Having poor mental health or struggling to cope is different from living with a mental illness.
- Generally, the difference between poor mental health and a mental illness is the nature of and degree to which the difficulties someone is experiencing are having on their wellbeing and functioning.
- Mental illness usually has more of a significant detrimental impact across many areas of a person’s life than episodes of poor mental health which may be situation specific or time limited.
- Anyone of any age, gender, geographical background, race, ethnicity, class, background, religion, ability, appearance, culture, class, economic status, sexual orientation can experience mental illness.
Factors that contribute towards good mental health and emotional wellbeing
It is important to have the basics of wellbeing consistently practised and in place. Young people may need help establishing and maintaining these wellbeing practices:
- Having a routine; getting up and going to bed at similar times
- Good sleep hygiene
- Being organised and having a plan of what to do and how to do it
- Eating and drinking regularly, this includes having breakfast everyday
- Engaging in hobbies and interests regularly
- Making sure there is a balance of activities; academic work, social time and rest as these are all equally important
- Having limits as to how much they use technology, social media and online gaming
- Having short and longer term goals and ambitions; things to look forward to, strive and work towards
How adult caregivers can support a young person struggling with their mental health:
- Ensure you have support for yourself; ask for help or let someone know if you are struggling either with your own emotional and mental health or if you are struggling with supporting a young person
- Role model that you are human too; normalise and validate that we all have thoughts and feelings and can experience difficulties and struggles with our emotional and mental health.
- Share information; joined up working between adult caregivers (e.g., home and education) ensures consistency and containment for young people.
- Be calm, consistent , clear and boundaried, as well as kind and compassionate.
- Remember that your verbal and nonverbal communication and responses will have an impact on how a young person thinks, feels and behaves.
- Work with a young person to help them better understand , express and communicate how they are thinking and feeling
- Family action offer support and advice on all aspects of parenting, child development and home life more information can be found at family-action.org.uk
- BBC Bitesize have an article on how to boost positivity for your family at home
General CAMHS referral guidance
What we do, what we don't do and what to do if you are worried about your child.
Below is a general guide to help you decide what may be helpful for your child
Coping / need support
Nature (type) of Difficulties
- Common worries or difficulties that many young people experience
- Difficulties are often situation specific (e.g., happened after a specific event) or last only for a short time
- Limited impact on daily functioning (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests)
- Limited impact on physical or emotional wellbeing
- Difficulties in line with typical childhood or adolescence
What to do
- Self-help resources/ guided self-help (things a young person can look at themselves or together with the support of a parent/ carer or professional). Such as Hampshire CAMHS website.
- Talking to family or friends
- Support from school/ GP
- Support from youth organisations
- A referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service should not be considered as a first response. Consider referring to other agencies in the first instance.
Nature (type) of difficulties
- Common worries or difficulties which may be causing more distress than would be expected.
- Level of distress is out of context to the situation/ event/ incident.
- Episodes of worry, sadness, anger or distress may be more frequent or last longer than anticipated or expected.
- Some impact on functioning which has lasted at least a few weeks (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests).
What to do
- Follow the Green stage steps AND consider accessing help, advice and support from:
- School nursing team/ pastoral support
- Counselling services/ 1:1/ group support
- Youth organisations
- Emotional health/ mental health specific resources
Helplines such as:
- Young minds parents helpline: 0808 8025 544
- Family lives helpline: 0808 8002 222
Need specialist intervention / crisis management
Nature (type) of Difficulties
- Difficulties are severe and enduring (difficulties have lasted longer than several weeks).
- Significant distress to the young person and or the family/ network.
- Significant disruption to daily life and functioning (e.g., ability to go to or cope at school, play with friends, engage in hobbies or interests).
- Presenting as a risk to themselves or others.
- Despite accessing and trying support in stages Green and Amber, difficulties persist.
- Signs of physical compromise (becoming physically unwell).
What to do:
- Follow the Green and Amber stages AND:
- See your child’s GP.
- Seek advice from helplines.
- Consider a referral to CAMHS