ChildLinks Issue 2: Children's Mental Health

Barnardos. (2020). ChildLinks Issue 2: Children's Mental Health.
According to the World Health Organization, fear, worry and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. It is no wonder then that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions have caused many of us to feel isolated, anxious and stressed. It is not just adults who have been impacted by recent events, however. Children have been particularly affected by COVID-19 as their normal day-to-day lives, including school, meeting with friends, visits to see Granny and sporting activities, have all been disrupted. Furthermore, children will be affected by what they have heard and what they understand about the threats the virus poses to health. We do not yet know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the emotional well-being of children and adolescents, but it is important to consider the potential impact on their mental health and how these might be mitigated. The first article in this issue of ChildLinks focusing on Children’s Mental Health considers how Barnardos, in an effort to respond to the changes brought about by COVID-19, has promoted activities to help children and parents understand the connection between their bodily reactions, emotional responses and behaviours during this unprecedented time, in other words between heart, body and mind. The article outlines the aim of strategies used to expand children’s windows of tolerance, create environments in which children feel safe, and promote a connectedness for children, both with themselves and with others. The next article in this issue outlines the work of Crosscare Teen Counselling, looking specifically at family context as a significant factor when considering mental health issues of adolescents. It poses questions to consider about the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential impact it may have on adolescent mental health. With the advent of the pandemic, our world has been dominated by reports of increasing viral transmission and the mounting death toll. As adults we may feel unsure about how to approach conversations or find the words to talk about what is happening, or avoid talking with children about the situation altogether. Elizabeth Rapa and Louise Dalton from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford discuss how opening lines of communication with children about their understanding of the situation is a key component in protecting their long-term psychological health. In the next article, child therapist Louise Shanagher describes the methods she uses to introduce the practices of mindfulness and self compassion to children in creative, playful and experiential ways. We then look at Buddy Bench Ireland, an award-winning not-for-profit, evidence-led, positive mental health initiative for Irish primary school children. The final article outlines the Triple P Fear-less programme, a specialist programme that supports parents and helps them to learn new cognitive behavioural strategies for anxiety management, encouraging them to apply these themselves for all their children.