Understanding youth mental health with West Kent Mind

As our children and young people continue to learn from home or be experiencing a vastly different university life to what they had hoped for and expected, we must take seriously the impact that this will have on the mental health and wellbeing of this generation.  We are all aware of the impact lockdown is having on education, especially for those children who do not have access to live lessons and a structured timetable, but we must also consider the social isolation and impact on confidence and self-esteem. 

From what we are hearing and seeing, everybody is finding this third lockdown more difficult and even as adults it is hard to rationalise it sometimes, never mind for a child whose brain is still developing and for whom a year is a substantial proportion of their life experience so far.  Our children’s lives have been turned upside down and while there are many benefits to spending more time with our immediate families, they should be out there, socialising, learning from their peers, making, and learning from their mistakes and living. 

Increased screen time for all family members is also a factor we need to take into consideration and the importance of scheduling in routine breaks, exercise and fresh air. We are seeing reports of low-level anxiety among children on the rise and worryingly the BBC has been reporting of increased numbers of children in mental health crisis reporting to A&E. As a society it is our duty to protect our young people and those who care for them.

As we have talked about in previous articles, teaching and enabling our children to talk openly about their feelings, to know that their feelings are valid and that they are not alone is crucial and has never been more important than now. The causes of stress and anxiety for our children are not hugely different to our own and, during this pandemic, they are exacerbated for us all. Pressure and uncertainty can come from many sources – emotional, environmental, physical or life changes– and everyone has a limit to what they can healthily cope with and this differs for everyone. 

During this lockdown, especially for children and young people, it may feel like their freedom has been removed and, much like adults, their avenues to release any pent-up frustrations rand emotions removed. What is important is that we notice, know how to start a conversation, are aware of how we listen and how we validate their feelings, without undermining their significance. Keep conversations positive and supportive and take their concerns seriously. This is the key to early intervention – notice the signs and signals and communicate, even if it requires a lot of perseverance.

We provide support to parents locally through various channels. We work in schools where we not only train teachers, but talk to children about mental health awareness and offer youth mental health courses for parents. We also run workshops on specific topics such as self-harm and eating disorders, where we dispel myths and develop understanding through interactive talks and experience sharing.  Just having another parent to talk to who may have a similar experience can be very powerful. 

We also work with local sports clubs and youth organisations, who are having to come up with innovative ways of keeping their members engaged and active while they are unable to meet in person. It is safe to say that this is a challenging time for everyone and for parents teachers and carers it is a tough gig at the moment– trying to lead by example, implement healthy coping strategies and show that it is ok not to be ok, while holding everything together for those who depend upon you. 

Self-care has never been more important and we urge you to reach out if you need support – our team are always here for you.

During March we will be running an Understanding Self Harm and Youth Mental Health First Aid course, for anyone who would benefit from increased knowledge and understanding in these areas.

For more information on our services, please visit:

Upcoming Events and Training

For further details on any of our courses, please visit the events section of our website or email training@westkentmind.org.uk

All of our courses are provided at subsidised rates and any profits go directly to support our work in the community. Our training includes a range of certified MHFA England courses and interactive workshops.

  • Thursday 11th February – Understanding Stress & Anxiety (online)
  • Thursday 18th February – Understanding Depression (online)
  • Monday 22nd February – MHFA online (2 day equivalent course)
  • Thursday 25th February – Half Day Mental Health Aware (online)
  • Tuesday 2nd March – Understanding Self-harm Workshop (online)
  • Wednesday 10th March – Understanding Stress and Anxiety (online)
  • Thursday 11th March – Half Day Mental Health Aware (online)
  • Monday 15th March – Youth MHFA (online)
  • Tuesday 16th March – Understanding Depression (online)
  • Monday 22nd March – MHFA Online (2 day equivalent course)