1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class.
So here I am, after a 4 month hiatus, the purpose of this post today isn’t to promote anything, or tell you about my latest purchase. It’s more of a diary entry, sharing something pretty personal in the hope that it may help at least one person.
As I’ve mentioned before my eldest who’s almost 11 was knocked over by a car 3 years ago, he was crossing at a green man with a friend and their Mum when a car jumped a red light. He suffered a broken collar bone and some head injuries. The physical scars faded over time but the psychological scars have most certainly outstayed their welcome. Since the accident he’s struggled with anxiety as a result of the Post traumatic stress disorder. He had some therapy through our amazing NHS and their CAHMS which he initially responded well to. We are a very open family and believed that together we were beating the anxiety gremlin. But always in the back of my mind, I’ve known that he wasn’t 100%. You can’t cure an anxiety disorder, as many of my friends and women I’ve met through Instagram, you can learn to control it but I know it will never just disappear.
I’m also becoming more aware of triggers which cause his anxiety to rear it’s ugly head. Little signs start popping up again, he will start asking to sleep in my bed, complaints of sore neck/chest/tummy, panic attacks along with unrealistic/catastrophic thoughts about things happening to him or us. When I’m holding his sweaty palms as he sobs into his pillow, telling me he can’t breathe or he’s worried he’s got cancer I just want to take it all away from him. I want the world to stop for one second, just long enough so I can tell him everything’s going to be ok. He’s safe and loved. These things of course he knows, in his rational mind. But bedtime sets in and so does the irrational fear.
My gorgeous boy is smart, popular, sporty and one of the most caring/empathetic people you’ll meet. He has many friends and family surrounding him, he is a member of teams and clubs and has endless hobbies…on the outside he’s a happy boy with not a care in the world. But I know the anxiety is simmering just below the surface. I would sit up all night to watch him sleep, knowing he’s dreaming happy thoughts and not lying awake worrying. He’ll go through phases where he’ll have something new to worry about at night. Currently it’s sleep walking “what if I sleep walk out the door Mummy, or hurt you while I’m sleeping” What if someone he loves gets ill or dies. So many “what ifs” fill his head daily. My precious boy has such an important year coming up, approaching secondary school transfers. I know only too well how important it is that he is settled and calm and ready for new challenges. But with him, it only takes one small trigger…a school trip, a change in routine, something horrible on the news or an injury/accident at school. Now he is older he has become very good at telling me or his dad when he feels himself slipping into a state of panic. We have taught him calming techniques which he applies himself. He also knows saying his worries out loud helps him hear himself and deal with them. Other methods include positive affirmations, we find Yes Mum Mini pack particularly useful. We are also currently working through a CBT workbook called Starving the anxiety gremlin.
But our best weapon? Communication. Talking about it, with each other, with other family members and close friends. So when he refuses a sleepover in favour of a night in with Mum and Dad, it’s not because he doesn’t want to be involved in the fun but that’s just his choice this time, his friends understand.
Children’s mental health is so important, and can be overlooked. Children may be labelled “difficult” or “over sensitive” but those who suffer as children are far more likely to go on to be adults with mental health issues. That’s where it hits home. Early recognition and support is crucial to help reduce impact in later life.
We are tackling this head on in the hope that we are somehow preparing him for the turbulent teenage years (God knows they are bloody hard) I found the Workshop with lovely Sarah ( @themindmedic) super informative and plan on purchasing her book when it comes out in April. Sarah spoke about loads of useful strategies suitable for children of all ages, and simple tips on how to talk to your child about their own mental health.
So for now, we parent on…we will be there, like all parents, to celebrate and praise him through every up and hold his hand during every down.
February 5th-11th is Children’s Mental Health Week Health Week. Place 2 Be is the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity providing in-school support and expert training to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff.