A teenager from Northern Ireland has helped create a journal to get young people speaking about their mental health, as part of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Sarah McMorran, 15 from County Tyrone, hopes to encourage people to be more open about their struggles as charity Action for Children warned a mental health crisis is “threatening to engulf a generation” of young people.
Sarah told the PA news agency: “You see a lot of older people speaking about mental health and how it’s important, and you know that it is and you know what they’re saying is right.
“But whenever you hear it from someone your own age, it means a bit more.
“They have had similar situations they’ve gone through, and they know how you are feeling.
“I think that it’s really important to get many age ranges speaking and talking about mental health, so that everyone can understand and learn from it.”
Action for Children said it has seen a steady increase in parents speaking to them with concerns about their children’s mental health — rising from 9% of chats in May to 29% in December.
The director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “Nearly a year of lockdowns, fear and anxiety, disruption to education and uncertainty about the future has added to the already shocking numbers of young people who have nowhere to turn for professional help.
“We know from our services young people are struggling at home without their usual support networks, having to cope with the pressures of remote learning, family health fears, loneliness and pressure in the home – all the while being bombarded by social media and depressing headlines.
“The Government must commit to adequate funding and specialist services to tackle the surge in demand caused by the pandemic and stop a generation of children from suffering in silence.
“The longer the lockdowns go on, the more disconnected I’m becoming with the world.”
— Action for Children (@actnforchildren) January 28, 2021
“Our own school programmes show how vital it is to step in early with support to stop problems in their tracks and dial down the agony these young people face.”
Sarah took part in a six-week “Blues programme”, run by Action for Children, that supports teenagers identified as having mental health concerns. She said the programme “changed her way of thinking”.
She is part of a group of young people who have helped produce a journal Looking After Me, to help others with their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
She said: “The journal is a really good way to put forward the information and advice that the Blues programme gave me.
“I think people are aware of the issues affecting young people, but I don’t think they really know how to speak about it as much. And this year has obviously been really difficult and really strange, and I think that because it’s been so unique, not many people know how to deal with it.”
It includes questions and exercises to prompt young people to think about their feelings and gives space for emotions they want to explore.
Rhonda Murphy, services co-ordinator for Blues Programme said: “It’s a vital resource for the times we’re currently facing – the Covid 19 pandemic has already had, and will continue to have for many months to come, a devastating effect on the mental health of young people across the UK.”