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As lockdown eases in some places, and starts round two in others, the world feels like a strange place to navigate.

For the many parents that I am speaking to on a daily basis, the concern for child and adolescent mental health grows. The uncertainty of the world, the disruptions to education and the distortions to social lives, for many, has created a wealth of mental health issues, ranging from low level to crisis. But, as a parent, what do you need to be looking for? And at which point should you be stepping in and looking for help?

 

Signs and symptoms:

Seeing signs of mental ill-health as warning flags is a great way to keep things in check.

I frequently work with children who, in the face of adversity, coped like a trooper. However, in the months/years after, then began to struggle. Because life had resumed to a sense of normal routine, they link to the original event and the symptom were not immediately obvious.

In the aftermath of situations such as the pandemic, it should be noted that for some children and adolescents we may see symptoms of mental ill-health for a period of 3-24 months after the lockdown has eased. For some children, it may be longer than this. Therefore, it becomes paramount to monitor, observe and if symptoms do arise to seek support for them.

My general advice, is that if the signs are LOW level, if they do not stop within 6-8 weeks, seek professional support.

If symptoms are MODERATE lasting for longer that 7-10 days with no reduction, seek professional help.

If they are HIGH level, seek professional support immediately.

But how do we distinguish which is low, moderate and high?

The answer to that, is it is unique to your child and their resilience, sensitivity and ability to manage emotions, but there are some categories that should be seen without question:

 

Seek help ASAP;

  • Self-harming behaviours
  • Risks or threats to life
  • Presence of hallucinations and delusions
  • Restriction of food and water intake
  • Use of drugs
  • Use of unprescribed medications (inc. laxatives)
  • Risky behaviours placing safety at risk
  • Substance misuse
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there

 

Symptoms to be aware of:

  • Complaining of frequent tummy aches, nausea
  • Frequent headaches (with no links to eye sight)
  • Tearful with no understanding why
  • Complaints of feeling sad, low or down
  • Complaints of boredom
  • Withdrawing or isolating self from others
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Paranoia or fear that something will happen (e.g. death, robberies)
  • Flashbacks to difficult or traumatic memories
  • Difficulty engaging in activities or concentrating
  • Panic about certain activities
  • Breathless, rapid breathing when discussing particular subjects
  • Disruptions to sleep patterns
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Nightmares, night terrors
  • Eating more than usual
  • Eating less than usual
  • Sudden changes in weight (increase or drop)
  • Complaining of nausea at mealtimes
  • Neglecting their own appearance
  • Regression to past behaviours e.g. bed wetting, thumb sucking, nail biting, sleeping with parents
  • Avoidance of previously enjoyed activities
  • Refusal to leave the house
  • Lack of desire to see friends or take part in activities
  • Outbursts of anger or aggression
  • Being clingy or scared of parents leaving
  • Fear of visiting new places or familiar places
  • Fixations on situations
  • Difficulty relaxing, sitting still or being peaceful
  • Expressing upset or discomfort at body image or type
  • Trying to control situations
  • Confused thinking
  • Discomfort or anxiety at their own thoughts
  • Expressing negative thoughts
  • Expressing dark thoughts, including of hurting themselves
  • Reduced performance in school work or sports

 

What support can we navigate?

 

For low level, or early worries:

  • Speak with your child’s school to ascertain support that they may be able to offer through their SENCO and pastoral support teams
  • Check out our therapeutic story books and audio stories, as well as exploratory feelings cards and workbooks at the Adventures of Brian – adventuresofbrian.co.uk
  • Check out our online shop at AStepatatime.org.uk for a wealth of hypnotherapy audios to suit children from 4 upwards to use at bedtimes to ease low level anxiety and worries

 

For moderate level worries and behaviours:

  • Speak with your child’s school to ascertain support that they may be able to offer through their SENCO and pastoral support teams
  • Speak with your GP for guidance and support, as well as sign posting
  • Check out our online shop at AStepatatime.org.uk for a wealth of hypnotherapy audios to suit children from 4 upwards to use at bedtimes to ease low level anxiety and worries
  • Contact a local therapist with specialism in working with children and young people –you can see my services at astepatatime.org.uk

 

For high level worries:

  • Speak with your GP for guidance and support, and referral to CAMHS
  • In the event of a non-life threatening medical concern please call111 for medical advice.
  • In times of urgent need, attend you’re A&E department or call 999 if a threat to life has occurred or your child is missing in crisis
  • If you need immediate mental health support for yourself or your child you can contact the Mental Health Services Team who will be able to support and guide 0300 5000 101 (available 24/7) 
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