These are tough times for families, with school closures, job uncertainties, isolation from friends and family and, of course, the global pandemic itself.
In a typical year, one in four people will suffer some form of mental health difficulty. This is not a normal year, and even more people are seeking help. That includes children.
According to charity Place2Be, up to 1.5 million children and teenagers across the UK will need new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the pandemic, of which a third had no previous diagnosable mental health problems.
Who do you turn to if you think or know that your child is struggling with mental health issues? Fortunately, you have a number of options. The guide below highlights just some of the wonderful charities and organisations who are there to help and support young people going through a difficult time.
Offers a range of services and training opportunities to improve mental health.
YoungMinds runs numerous mental health projects and resources. Its Crisis Messenger service gives 24-hour support to young people in need, while the parents’ helpline is the one to call if you think your child needs a helping hand (email support and webchat are also available). The charity’s many projects run across three programmes: giving young people the tools and reassurance to help themselves; making sure young people have someone to turn to if they need help or assurance; and building a youth movement to create societal change around mental health. Your kids could help with the third by becoming a YoungMinds Activist.
Support for mental health issues in a school setting.
Place2Be has provided mental health services to schools for more than a quarter of a century. The charity arranges one-to-one sessions in school, so that children struggling with mental health issues have access to professional help in a familiar environment. According to Place2Be, around three children in every school class have some form of diagnosable mental health problem.
The charity works across the whole UK, in over 600 schools. In 2020, around 5,500 pupils were supported with ongoing one-to-one counselling. But that number is dwarfed by the almost 40,000 who benefited from short appointments. Place2Be also provides training in child counselling.
For Children’s Mental Health Week 2021, the charity launched the Young London SOS campaign to support young people struggling with their mental health, through this pandemic and beyond.
Researching, lobbying and providing support around mental health issues.
All the charities in this list do life-saving work, helping young people with mental health issues. The Anna Freud centre does this too, but also looks at the bigger picture. Through original research and policy development, working with communities and professionals, they’re helping shape best practice and improve outcomes. In addition, Anna Freud trains over 8,000 mental health professionals a year, and currently has 330 post-graduate students. They also help families directly, through a Crisis Messenger text service. And their series of podcasts help adults identify mental health issues in children, and get the right help.
Nip in the Bud
A charity producing short films to raise awareness around young people’s mental health.
Nip in the Bud is a little different to the other charities in this list, in that it doesn’t offer counselling or traditional training. Instead, it focuses on making short videos and fact sheets to help us all recognise potential mental health problems in children. Topics covered include autism spectrum conditions, conduct disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety and ADHD. Would you be able to spot the signs if your child was struggling with one of these? The site also includes an excellent list of links to organisations where you can get help with these specific disorders.
Confidential phone line for children struggling with any issue.
One of the best known children’s charities, ChildLine was set up in 1986 by Esther Rantzen and is now part of the NSPCC. Its number, 0800 1111, is etched into the memories of everyone who was around at that time, thanks to a catchy jingle. Anyone under the age of 19 can dial that number and get through to a trained counsellor (it’s a free service and doesn’t show up on phone bills). You can phone about any problem at all, big or small, and someone will be there to listen. The ChildLine website also has plenty of information and advice about issues that commonly affect children. Whether your child currently has mental health issues or not, it’s worth having a chat about ChildLine, so that they’re aware of its existence should they ever need it.
NSPCC’s Mental Health Resources
Resources for parents of children with mental health issues.
While ChildLine is aimed at young people, the NSPCC has additional resources to help the parents of children with mental health issues. Its pages offer clear advice on how to spot signs of depression, anxiety, self-harming and other difficulties. You’ll also find some really good advice on talking to children about these issues, and getting them to open up.
Advice, support and campaigning for mental health issues.
Although not specifically aimed at children, Mind has plenty of resources that will be of use to families. The charity is particularly helpful for adults with mental health issues, who are concerned that their difficulties may have an impact on their children.
An imaginative project to give children more of a voice.
Children Heard takes a different approach to childhood mental health and wellbeing. Set up by two child psychologists, it’s about giving young people more of a voice, and platforms for expressing their ideas and opinions. Their current project is an interactive poster, which children can use to share their thoughts, experiences and opinions about the pandemic. If your child is struggling with the pressures of isolation, then see if they want to use the poster as a way of speaking out about their struggle. Their voices will be heard.
Ultimate list of resources for families who need mental health advice.
This list only highlights some of the bigger organisations within the children’s mental health sector. An exceptionally thorough and helpful guide to further information can be found on the CAMHS Resources pages. This independent site pulls together dozens of links to useful organisations, but also provides suggestions on helpful books, apps, downloads and videos. The books section alone offers around 80 titles, indexed by topic (anxiety, eating disorders, etc.)
Help From The NHS And Local Authorities
As well as the charities listed above, help can also be found via NHS-funded initiatives and programmes offered by your local authority. The services on offer vary around the country and more information can be found on the NHS website.
Our list above focuses on charities that may be particularly helpful to the parents of children with mental health issues. Many other charities and organisations look out for young people’s mental wellbeing as part of a broader remit, or with a focus more on guiding policy or training professionals. These include Action for Children, Heads Together, Time to Change and Samaritans, among many others.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.