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Let's Talk: Connection

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and the theme is Let’s Connect. Over the last eight years, Place2Be’s themed week has aimed to improve the lives of young people throughout the UK by raising awareness of mental health and providing free resources to get children and adults thinking.

Why is Children’s Mental Health Week important?

The NHS reports that 1 in 6 young people aged 5-16 has a diagnosable mental health condition. During COVID, the health service saw the highest record of under-18s in touch with NHS child and adolescent psychiatric teams. With only severe cases referred, school staff are witnessing an increase in pupils needing extra support due to anger, anxiety, attention problems, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and self-harm (see NAHT for more information).

Focusing on emotional well-being is essential, not just for those suffering from mental health issues but for everyone. It helps teach stress management, encourages a more positive outlook, aids communication and decision-making and teaches resources and techniques to mitigate problems when they arise.

Below we look at a few connections that help us with wellbeing.

Human Connection

Humans are social animals; we need companionship. From Aristotle to Maslow, philosophers and psychologists agree that we have a fundamental need to group together - bonds with family, making friends and harnessing community. We need to feel like we belong!

Connecting with others improves our mental health and stops us from becoming lonely. When we need an emotional well-being lift or know a friend is feeling low, reaching out for a chat or taking part in a combined interest is a sure-fire way to help raise the mood.

Connection with Nature

Hands up if you spent more time exploring your natural surroundings during the lockdown. We did too, and it has become an essential part of our wellbeing journey - it helps settle worries and reduces everyday stress, providing time to relax and allowing us to take a step back.

In Japan, there is a term for this - ‘shinrin yoku’: the practice of slowing down and immersing yourself in the outdoor environment (particularly forests), which is thought to have a whole host of different health benefits, including boosting mental health and lowering blood pressure.

Children also feel the benefit of the outdoors on their emotional wellbeing. The UK National Association for Environmental Education has been studying the impact of nature on children’s wellbeing; they have found that children who have spent more time connecting with nature reported feeling calmer, refreshed, and more confident, and it helped build social connections.

Connection with Animals

We all know that spending time with animals is an excellent way to alleviate stress and anxiety. Apart from lightening your mood, it is proven to have long-term health benefits - studies show that interacting with animals can lower blood pressure and decrease cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

The ZooLab animals help improve well-being in multiple settings - we have an entire blog post here on the benefits of animal therapy.

Place2Be's free resources for schools will help you to get involved; with assembly guides, activities, fundraising ideas and more.

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