It's almost October - a month which holds an extremely significant day in the global calendar. The WHO recognises the 10th day of the month as World Mental Health Day. In Australia, this is an active, month-long campaign created by Wayahead, to combat the ever-present issues facing Australians young and old today.
One in fourteen young Australians (6.9%) aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people. [Source]
From early intervention campaigns to community support initiatives, this day aims to ill uminate and remove the stigma surrounding mental illnesses affecting our population, particularly in young people.
Watch this video to see the full impact of mental illness in children across Australia, and how you can turn this around:
3 Strategies to Boost Children's Mental Wellbeing:
1. Reinforce positive physical activity behaviours
By maintaining a healthy relationship with your body through physical activity, your mind will receive a direct boost of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. These are part of the reward system in our brain, which is triggered following the completion of activities such as: outdoor walks, yoga, a sports game etc. and are proven to serve many functions such as:
- Boost your mood
- Improve sleep and energy levels throughout the day
- Serve to distract or block you from daily worries
- Improved sense of wellbeing
A Canadian study from the Journal of Adolescent Health showed students who played school sports between ages 8-12 experienced less stress and depression as young adults. It was also shown to provide valuable confidence, critical-thinking and judgement skills, as well as increased brain function.
Forming these behaviours at a young age, creates a positive association with physical activity is created, coupled with an enjoyable aspect to self care.
2. Improve Mindfulness
Mindfulness is used to become more grounded by paying full attention to what is going on in you and outside you, moment by moment, and without judgement. This could be as simple as using visualisation, meditation, active self-awareness or combination of all three on a daily basis. Everyone, not just children can benefit from the focus and balance this creates for everyday life! According to one study from NeuroImage, meditation practice has been shown not only to benefit higher-order brain functions, but also to alter brain activity as well as emotional regulation.
By introducing our next generation to positive social, emotional and physical learning at an early age, a routine can be formed to encompass this behaviour and help children improve how they self-regulate and cope with mental illness moving to adulthood.
3. Encourage Positive Relationships/Friendships
Building positive relationships with peers is crucial in order to develop valuable self confidence and to create a support group which both serve individuals well when dealing with life’s ups and downs. Data generated by researchers at University of Virginia suggests there could be a direct link between students having close friends and an improvement in long term mental health for these individuals - this means that life is simply better when you are surrounded by loved ones.
From your home, to schools locally and abroad these strategies will build the resilience and emotional intelligence to take control of your emotional and social wellbeing. For young people, this empowerment and positive sense of self is integral to their success moving toward adulthood.