News & events

10 Oct 2018

Do you talk to your children about mental health?

Mental Health Ireland’s ‘National Insights Survey’ conducted by Ipsos MRBI asked parents if they talk to their children about mental health and wellbeing.

A welcome finding from Mental Health Ireland’s Survey confirms that 67% of respondents who are parents are already having a conversation about mental health and wellbeing.

This finding spans both urban and rural communities in Ireland. The survey found that 75% of women were likely to broach the subject, with men at 58%.

The theme for World Mental Health Day on the 10th October is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, this presents a great opportunity for parents to continue or start a conversation with their young person about mental health and wellbeing.

Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland said

Despite what we might sometimes think, young people in Ireland really do look to and value their parent’s guidance and support.

While this is really encouraging, we do note that for about one third of Irish families this conversation has yet to happen. We are keen to understand what the possible barriers may be.

Perhaps its a discomfort with the topic, not feeling sufficiently well informed or a concern that it may cause some distress or upset. We now know that it’s good to talk, to listen and where necessary respond.

For some families, mental health can be a difficult topic to open up with young people but it doesn’t need to be. We know that Irish parents routinely talk to their children about physical health with guidance on sleep, exercise and a healthy diet. We can now build on these conversations around physical health and easily integrate the topic of wellbeing and positive mental health.

By talking about our own feelings it can be a great starting point and can act as an invitation to a young person to share their feelings or any concerns. These open conversations can help young people navigate their feelings, identify if they are struggling and provide a safe place to have that deeper conversation.

Also in the Mental Health Ireland’s National Insights Survey, respondents were asked if there are the things we can do to improve our mental health with 93% reporting there are things we can do to improve our mental health and wellbeing.

When asked what these may be; 39% cited exercise and 28% said talking to a friend or family member is a positive step to improving wellbeing.

13% said eating healthy food and 10% said speaking to a counsellor can help. A further 10% cited mindfulness, meditation and yoga as ways to achieve and improve our mental health and wellbeing.

These are helpful actions we can take to protect our mental health and confirms previous research carried out by the New Economic Foundation in 2008 around the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which suggests that we should aim to Connect, Be Active, to Take Notice, to Keep Learning and to Give.

Today, on World Mental Health Day, parents might try to find a moment for a conversation around mental health and wellbeing. A shared activity can act as a buffer to any discomfort or embarrassment whilst still lending itself to an open chat. Maybe during a game or on a walk with your child can be a great time to broach the subject of how they are feeling and how things are going for them.

A car journey is also a great place to start; there’s no need for eye contact which can be uncomfortable for the younger person and it creates some shared time to reflect and have a real conversation without distraction.

The number one tip for parents is to start the conversation, listen, try not to interrupt and resist the temptation to rush in with solutions – Young people often just need a little time to explore their own thought out loud knowing that they have the understanding and wisdom of a supportive adult.

Allow young people the opportunity to express how they are feeling and most importantly protect some the time to be available to listen when they are ready to talk.

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