Parents of young people may be experiencing a whole array of emotions right now. A level results were received last week - GCSE results are today. Young people all over the UK will be going through a spectrum of emotions and their parents will be on that rollercoaster with them.
As a parent of a 16 year old, I know all too well how challenging this time can be. In our case, this 16 year old is part of the school year group recognised as having been worst affected by the pandemic - and, it really has had a significant impact. She missed a lot of time in school during crucial school years, lost a lot of time in the company of her friends and peers - and it has had a huge impact on her mental health and wellbeing.
This will be familiar for many parents. In our case - this last two years has been extraordinarily tough. We have been dealing with serious mental health issues, at a time when Children's and Adolescents Mental Health Services' (CAMHS) resources have been extraordinarily stretched. It has been really difficult to get professional help - there have been longer waiting lists than ever - and more children and young people desperately needing help.
We have had to shout pretty loudly to get the help that we have needed - and, as a mother that works in mental health and has a wealth of knowledge, support and resources available to me; it has made me painfully aware of how much more difficult it must have been for others - that perhaps had fewer resources available to them, than I.
Right now, we are ok. We don't know how she is going to fare - and we will deal with the outcome as a family. We'll support her the best we can as a family and help her to overcome her mental health challenges, to achieve whatever she wants to achieve, and most of all - to find happiness.
As a Mum, I guess what I'd like to do here is to share some hope to other parents with children and young adults, who are in a similar position - hope for a positive future.
If you are a parent (or sibling, friend, or other family member) of a young person who is facing a challenging time right now, please know that things can get better. There IS help available. Yes, it might be challenging to access and it's not perfect (don't even get me started on that) - and, help is available. Everyone I have ever met working in CAMHS, or any of the other services that we have accessed, has been caring, compassionate, and genuinely wanted to help my child and all the other children and young people in their care.
Some of the things that have helped me are below - some of this might be helpful to you, so take whatever is helpful to you:
* Make mental health and wellbeing part of the day to day conversation in your family and home. It should not be a taboo subject and we should not only be talking about it when things are bad. Create the conditions for everyone to talk openly about how they feel and what they need. If you can, share your own experiences/thoughts/feelings/concerns.
* If your child is experiencing mental ill health, they - and you - need as much support as possible. Get in place a support network of family, friends, the school/teachers and professionals. Talk to them, lean on them.
* Build a relationship with your GP, or find a new one that you can rely on for support. Talk to them regularly - they can be a fantastic support and conduit to other services.
* Connect with CAMHS - yes, they are under-resourced so you may have to be patient, but do not discount them.
* Look for local charities / support groups that you can get involved in - getting support from other people experiencing similar challenges can be invaluable.
* If you are employed. check if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program - if they do, it may extend to your family, and you may be able to access support/therapy via this route.
* You can seek help privately, if resources allow - look at the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy for details of suitably qualified and experienced therapists https://www.bacp.co.uk/. They also have lots of valuable information and resources available on their site: https://www.bacp.co.uk/search?q=children%20and%20young%20people&UserLocation=52.3753013%2C-1.2606456
* If your child is experiencing a mental health crisis (self-harm, panic attacks, thoughts of suicide, suicide behaviour) seek professional help immediately - you can present at A&E, call emergency services or contact your local CAMHS Crisis team (a search engine enquiry will find the contact details and opening times of your local service.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, friend or someone else connected to a child - I hope this helps.
Remember, you are (all) doing your best and; whatever is happening right now - it will pass.
For more details of our services, how we can help, and especially our Youth Mental Health Training see here.