Parents not sure on how to discuss mental health with their children

Parents not sure on how to discuss mental health with their children

Mental health is a topic parents are too scared of to talk about with their children, according to new research.

Despite the fact that mental health affects one in four of us in any given year and one in ten children, parents don’t want to scare their children, according to the report published by the mental health anti-stigma programme, Time to Change.

The research found that while parents find it difficult to talk, encouragingly 80% also realised that they are the key influencers for their children’s attitudes and beliefs. However, findings also show that parents worried about starting a conversation as they believed their children would know more about the subject than them. This reveals a potential generational gap, with young people appearing to be able to engage better with the topic of mental health problems.

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “We want to work with parents to help them be the positive influencers for their children by bringing mental health into their lives. We will use the findings of this research to shape new resources for parents to help them have these conversations.

“In general, young people seem to engage well with the idea of challenging unfairness and, as such, they could be the first generation to make a strong stand against mental health stigma and discrimination.”

The research also found that although 84% of respondentsagreed that mental health problems could affect anyone, many still felt that it’s something that happens to ‘other people’.

One parent commented: “I think (young people) are much more aware of the fact that it’s not something to be hidden away. You should try to sort it out. I think this was very difficult for teenagers when I was that age to find information.”

Using the results from this study, Time to Change will offer parents helpful and practical information and advice on how to talk to their children about mental health problems. One of the main barriers that parents report to starting conversations is lack of time, so advice may include suggestions of good times to raise the issue such as on the school run, at meal times or even when mental health is being addressed on the TV. Time to Change has worked with popular soap operas EastEnders and Emmerdale and BBC3 on their mental health season over the last year – so this has offered lots of conversation prompts.

Charlotte Bull, 26, experienced depression and anxiety as a teenager, said “It was my mum who started a conversation with me about mental health, just after my A levels, as she noticed that my behaviour was different to normal. It was really important for me that she broached the subject and recommended that we go to our local GP together. It was the first step in getting the support that I needed.

“It’s so important to talk about mental health within the family. Before I experienced depression we had never discussed it, but it would have been really helpful. Especially in trying to understand my own symptoms and how to notice others at school who had been experiencing something similar.”

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