Research from the Health and Social Care Board is showing that 25% more children in Northern Ireland have anxiety and depression than the rest of the United Kingdom. Action Mental Health are looking to promote good mental health to people of all ages.
Francesca Verzelli took a seminar in Dunclug Primary School, Ballymena, with advice on how to improve mental health in children. Francesca said that the charity is ‘trying to get to the place where you don’t have to differentiate between physical and mental health’.
According to Francesca, it is important to start discussing this with people of a young age because ‘the younger you start offering those tools for children to cope, to build resilience and cope with those curveballs that life throws at you from a very young age’, the better it will be for them.
Francesca says that the reason for educating parents and young children is because ‘most mental health conditions and mental health kind of settles by the age of fourteen, so if there are any conditions by then they would be well embedded in individuals. So, the earlier you start to apply these methods in giving kids the tools, the better it is for them’.
When asked about what advice she would give to a parent who was concerned with their child’s mental health, Francesca says it will depend on a case-by-case basis. ‘It depends. If they came to us with questions, I suppose there would be a lot of questions to ask them. What are their concerns? Why are you concerned? In what way is it affecting them? Is it impeding on their day-to-day life? I suppose you would have to find out more information and then signpost them, I guess. We do offer some different types of support, but it’s mostly group settings that we would work with and we do have a counselling service as well which works out of schools as well as a centre’. Verzelli added that ‘depending on the concern and situation, then we would decide what’s best to do’.
These seminars are offered to schools and youth groups according to Francesca. ‘We go into classes, and we have workshops that last for the school morning’. Francesca added that ‘we have some free ones and some chargeable ones that work more with and kind of focus on determined topics and we work with all ages from key stage one to university. We work with NRC and University of Ulster, we work with community groups, we work with adults in different settings’. Francesca additionally pointed out that the charity also works with school staff, as well as pupils, so that they can look after their own mental health too.
To get in contact with the service, parents can use the website www.amh.org.uk. By using the website, parents can find the necessary contacts and information, as well as getting signposted to the correct department.