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Looking after a child or young person's mental health

DepressionThere are times when we all feel the strain. As parents and carers, there are ways we can support children and young people to give them the best chance to stay mentally healthy.

See other pages in this section including Mental Health resources and Parent helplines and support.








Anxiety can often take us by surprise, throwing us off course and preventing us from going about our normal lives. But repeating affirmations can help us take back control, and vocalise our intentions. Next time you feel overpowered by anxiety, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and repeat one of these affirmations firmly to yourself. You may be surprised at the effect such simple, reassuring words can have

Mean world syndrome

Right now, perhaps more than ever before, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the news cycle. But have you ever stopped to consider how the bad news that we're consuming could be seeping into the rest of our lives? It turns out that what we see and hear being reported, could be negatively impacting how we view the world. Find out more about mean world syndrome and how to tackle it

Sunday night anxiety

The weekend is just about to begin, but something that a lot of people will be familiar with is a sense of dread that winds its way up inside you on Sunday night. Whether you have a busy week of work ahead of you, or you feel overwhelmed by your job, don't let anxiety about the week ahead disturb your weekend. Learn how to tackle Sunday night anxiety, for good

Understanding social anxiety and self esteem

Understanding worry



A Parents Guide to Depression; contains a summarised list of warning signs, advice and links to agencies for further support if you suspect that your child may be suffering from depression. The information explains how a referral should progress from initial enquiry to treatment. It is important to note that isolated symptoms or signs should not be taken out of context. If you have any concerns please call 111.

Increasing awareness and understanding of depression Depression is a complicated illness in that the symptoms and experiences vary from person to person. They say “knowledge is power” which is why we’ve put together some resources to help arm you with information to help you understand more about depression and some lifestyle changes which may help you.

Self Harm

  • Self-harm is fundamentally an attempt to cope with and control intense, difficult, and distressing feelings or thought patterns.
  • It includes any activity that intentionally injures the body such as cutting, burning, picking, high risk sexual or drug use behaviours and excessive exercise or eating restrictions.
  • Self-harm can be a distressing topic for parents, carers and safeguarding professionals to think about, but it is worth being clear that self-harm behaviours are less about ‘seeking attention’ and more of a signal ‘cry for help’.
  • Most self-harm will happen in secret and usually comes with feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Motivations are complex but young people report feeling a release or punishing themselves.
  • This release is only temporary and when difficult feelings appear again, so too can the urge to engage in self-harm behaviours. This can cause a difficult cycle of high-risk behaviours to manage feelings.

Bounce - Self harm support for 14-25 year olds in Gloucestershire

This 6 week intervention offers one to one CBT counselling alongside youth work support to help with practical issues.

The aim is to explore healthier coping mechanisms and address other practical issues such as housing, benefits, finding work or training, confidence building etc. at the same time.

Download the Bounce poster.

Coping with Self-Harm - A Guide for Parents and Carers developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.  Includes information on the nature and causes of self-harm, how to support a young person when facing this problem and what help is available. 

Young people who self-harm- A Guide for School Staff developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

Family Lives offers a guide to understanding self-harm, practical suggestions and links to further support. 

The NSPCC's guide to self-harm explains how to spot the signs and what you can do to help.

Understanding Young Minds is a free resource pack which includes a poster, an infographic, an email footer, an image to share on social media and a website banner.


University of Oxford guide for parents and carers on supporting their child or young person in dealing with self-harm. 


Suicide prevention

Know the Signs: information on suicide and self-harm for parents from the Samaritans, a national organisation for anyone in distress and in need of immediate support: 

Papyrus is a national charity for the prevention of young suicide.

The Zero Suicide Alliance collaboration of National Health Service trusts, charities, businesses and individuals offers free suicide prevention training. 

Suicide Crisis is a registered charity which has been running a crisis centre since 2013. Providing face to face support to people who are at risk of suicide, we are totally independent. We know from speaking with families that the inquest can be a daunting prospect. Families can get support on how to cope after suicide, when it can get very confusing with so many unanswered questions.

The Staying Safe website is a potentially life-saving resource developed by 4 Mental Health, with invaluable with invaluable input from our Expert Reference Group of international academics, people with lived experience (including of surviving a suicide attempt, self-harm, supporting a friend or family member or bereavement by suicide), suicide prevention experts, mental health practitioners, general practitioners, policy makers, public health experts, sector experts, educationalists and concerned citizens. offers compassion, kindness and easy ways to help keep people safer from thoughts of harm and suicide, seek support and discover hope of recovery through powerful videos from people with personal experience.

The website provides vital ‘Safety Plan' guidance tools jointly funded by NHS England, with easy to print / online templates and guidance video tutorials purposefully designed to help people through the process of writing their own Safety Plan to build hope, identify actions and strategies to resist suicidal thoughts and develop positive ways to cope with stress and emotional distress.

Tragically, suicide takes far too many lives, yet suicide is preventable. Anyone struggling to cope or experiencing deep distress may begin to think about harming themselves and consider suicide as a means to escape their emotional pain. It can be incredibly difficult to think clearly during these times. Everyone is encouraged to PREPARE for possible difficult times ahead BEFORE they happen, by completing a Safety Plan.

Helplines for young people

How to talk about suicide sensitively (Happiful Magazine October 2019). Talking about suicide is tough. It’s also incredibly important. But, what’s even more important is how we talk about it

If you know someone who might be feeling suicidal, you can find information on what to do, what to say and how to help them on Counselling Directory. Alternatively, the Samaritans have some really helpful advice on how to have a difficult conversation. Take a look at their website for guidance on how to help someone you're worried about open up about their feelings

Online suicide prevention tool

R;pple is an online suicide prevention tool, it discretely monitors harmful content/internet searches and replaces it in the first instance with a message of hope and range of mental health support channels for users in crisis to utilise. Download the toolkit here or read their FAQs


Peer Support

Peer support is when young people living with a mental health condition or other complex needs and difficulties support each other with advice, empathy and a listening ear. It can be a vital lifeline for many young people and can help them build independence, resilience and healthier coping mechanisms.

Young people may use message boards, habit tracking apps and social media to share information about their mental health. The increase in this use of technology for peer support is an indicator of how the pandemic has impacted traditional support services which have been restricted for many young people.

We want to make sure that safeguarding professionals and parents are aware of the different types of support young people may seek out within digital spaces. Where young people are unable to speak about issues in their lives, peer support may be their only way to cope.

Can peer support make things worse?

  • While there may be real benefits in peer support from sharing coping skills, resilience tips and distraction techniques for a young person, our research indicates that there may be some negative factors.
  • Analysts found posts where young people were clearly struggling with their mental health and speaking about distressing thoughts.
  • These posts were met with encouraging statements and motivational quotes but the volume of posts from young people could easily be overwhelming.
  • These interactions may create a feeling of solidarity and validation but it could in fact be triggering for a young person, whereby they compare their progress or emotional state to others. 
  • In some cases, young people may also share methods or tools for self-harm behaviours.
  • Young people may also be left feeling vulnerable and exposed after sharing intensely personal feelings and thoughts.
  • They may also develop unhealthy habits of ruminating on difficult feelings or experiences which may be counterproductive in their attempts to cope and seek support.

The importance of appropriate supports

We understand the value of peer support and where appropriate, this should be encouraged alongside existing professional mental health support for children and young people.

There may be additional complexities where a child or young person who has sought support in online spaces does not get a response or receives negative feedback, which might discourage them from seeking further help. It is important to recognise that there is no way to establish the quality of information or advice they receive.

If you are aware of young people using technology to share or cope with difficult feelings or circumstances it is helpful to discuss the value it has for them and what other supports they can use alongside it.

Tagged under: parents, carers, mental health, depression, anxiety, suicide, self harm, peer support, Bounce, parent helplines, parent support, social anxiety, self esteem, self-esteem, drugs, drug use, Family Lives, NSPCC, young minds, University of Oxford, Samaritans, Payrus, Zero Suicide Alliance, Suicide Crisis, staying safe, safety plan, heplines, ripple, R;pple

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