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Two small children walking away, over a wooden bridge.

A Million & Me: mental health support in these challenging times

Uncertainty creates anxiety, and right now, as we all try to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s clear that increasing numbers of children are beginning to struggle.

 

A Million & Me is all about supporting children and young people with their mental health and wellbeing. Through careful and dedicated work, we aim to build support amongst families and communities, resolving and managing issues where possible without clinical intervention. This has never been so important.

From virtual cooking sessions and activity packs, to dedicated support via online and text services, right now, we are continuing to support children at home, to make sure that they have access to the help they need, when, where and how they want it. You can see some of the fantastic and creative ways our funded charities are adapting below.

Whilst this work is making a huge difference, there are still many children who don’t have access either to the right equipment or even the broadband necessary to keep in touch with their friends, trusted adults and expert information. And for those who do, there is so much discussion about the pandemic that it can be confusing and discouraging to try.

BBC Children in Need has identified key resources from our partners that can help, and we are investing in technology that will help those children currently excluded to access support.

As the pandemic evolves, so will the pressures on children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. The work of these projects is central to their recovery and chance to thrive.

The logo of charity ParentZone

A voice for youngsters facing a confusing future

Parent Zone are experts in digital family life. They provide support and information to parents, children and schools, working globally to help families to navigate the internet safely and confidently. Parent Zone and BBC Children in Need have teamed up to create a ‘digital family support worker’.

Two of the most popular articles we have on our sites at the moment are ‘helping teenagers cope with lockdown’ and ‘surviving family life under lockdown’. Whilst some young people are enjoying time away from the pressures of school we know that the reality of life for most families is that you have good days and more difficult days. We are hearing from parents with confused and worried small children and from teenagers themselves about their frustration with the new normal. We don’t have any magic wands in our cupboard but we are helping families nurture their resilience. We’re celebrating ‘good enough’ for now – an extra hour in bed won’t hurt anyone – and making sure that we’re here when support is needed. That includes launching our new service for young people by young people – Factfindr. With Children in Need’s help we are giving a voice to youngsters who are facing a very confusing future and helping them to offer advice to children a little younger than themselves –  as well as important insights for the rest of us.

Verbal Arts every story matters logo

Exploring the lockdown through storytelling

Reading Rooms at Verbal offers children the chance to share their own stories through the medium of specially curated literature, enabling conversations and helping build a positive approach to life.

Talking to and connecting with children during the current pandemic lockdown can be made easier through storytelling. WellRead is a free website which helps parents to nurture their children’s emotional health and wellbeing through stories.

WellRead features a collection of carefully curated, short stories written by authors from all over the world. Engaging plotlines, language and characters are used to explore current issues including: self-image, emotions, self-esteem, learning from mistakes, isolation, caring for others, courage, anxiety and hope.

The lockdown story themes include adjusting to change, battling boredom, connecting with people, helping each other out and staying positive and hopeful. Using chatbot technology, parents are guided through a story to help them spark a conversation with their child.

To get started with WellRead visit www.mywellread.com

Young Minds logo

Providing families with tools to support their children through coronavirus

YoungMinds empowers and supports children and young people to help them enjoy positive mental health.

Using insights from parents, we’ve developed a hub on our website to provide families with the tools they need to support their children through coronavirus. 68% of parents who responded to our recent survey agreed that they were worried about the long-term implications on their child’s mental health and 65% of parents said that the coronavirus had impacted their own mental health. As such it’s more important than ever that we are there to support families. We are also answering more calls on our Parents Helpline than this time last year and are actively promoting the second tier of our service more widely should parents be concerned that their young people are not able to access the mental health support they need during these difficult times.

Wave Project Logo

Keeping young people engaged in these difficult times

Wave is a project working with children and young people in SW England who are beginning to struggle with their mental health. Through surfing, they offer a social prescribing option for GPs, with a child focused approach.

We all know how important social interaction is for positive mental health, so lockdown has been hard for the children we work with at The Wave Project. All our young surfers are missing the sea and the chance to have fun with friends and mentors. But we are keeping them engaged as best we can, producing a weekly activity pack full of games and competitions, which they can download via our website – www.waveproject.co.uk. We have also produced a guidebook on how to stay well during isolation, also available on the website. At a policy level, we are working alongside Surfing England and other national governing bodies to recommend to government how we can restart surf therapy post-lockdown. Mainly, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can get back into the water with our young surfers very soon – and start catching some waves!

The Stormbreak Logo

Connecting, empowering and creating a sense of ownership

Stormbreak CIO (www.stormbreak.org.uk) is a charity that supports children’s mental health by empowering and enabling schools to embed mentally healthy movement for every child, every day.

It is at this time that stormbreak is much needed, appropriate and relevant, yet many children are not in schools to be able to access the support of their teachers, staff, and friends. Whilst there are some children remaining within, or in the process of returning to school settings, staff and other key workers are under pressure, not able to deliver in traditional ways, leaving children uncertain and vulnerable. Children, school staff, families and carers deserve help to support their mental health, to give them back ownership, a sense of control and connectedness. With the support of BBC Children in Need and AM&M we are developing our work to offer stormbreak at home for children and their families/carers and communities to help support and meet the challenges faced now and in the future.

Positive Youth Foundation Logo

From virtual cooking to a mentoring hotline

The Positive Youth Foundation aims to support the most vulnerable young people and communities across the Midlands.

The lockdown has presented many challenges for young people, especially those who are more vulnerable and with greatest needs.  Through this time Positive Youth Foundation has been supporting between 160 – 180 young people with individual support through our mentoring hotline, weekly virtual fitness and cooking sessions, where ingredients and fitness equipment have been dropped off to young people’s homes to help them get involved. Alongside these ongoing sessions we’ve had over 3000 people interacting with our social media campaigns. We have captured the views and opinions of young people through podcasts and a survey which will be disseminated during Mental Health Awareness Week.  PYF will be focusing on this year’s #KindnessMatters theme with positive messages from young people to their peers.

Shout Text Line Logo

Managing anxiety in Covid-19 conversations

Shout is a 24/7 UK crisis text service available for times when people feel they need immediate support.

Shout has managed significantly increased traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic. The transition to working remotely was straightforward since our 1800 volunteers work from home, and we can run all our operations remotely. Record numbers of volunteers are taking conversations, with text volumes steadily growing since lockdown was announced, currently averaging around 850 texts a day. Conversations that are related to Covid-19 are almost twice as likely to have anxiety as an issue, apparently driven by the uncertainty which was particularly high in the early stages of the pandemic. Children under 13 are the age group least likely to discuss Covid-19, presenting with key issues such as suicide, anxiety, depression, relationships, loneliness, and self-harm. On a more positive note children are texting less about bullying, no doubt because of the school closure.

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