Reliable information and consistent relationships with trusted adults can help children to learn about their mental health, how to look after it and how to seek help when they need it, according to a report published today by Centre for Mental Health.
Everyday magic, by Juliet Snell, is based on the first two years of the Centre’s evaluation of BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me programme, which is supporting projects nationwide to boost mental health and wellbeing among children aged 8-13. Activity funded by A Million & Me across the UK includes local projects using storytelling to boost children’s wellbeing and the creation of digital resources for parents, children and teachers.
The report finds that projects funded through A Million & Me have helped to provide children with ‘scaffolding’ to enhance their mental health. Children need and value positive, rewarding relationships to help them make sense of their own mental wellbeing. Everyday conversations about mental wellbeing, within these relationships, equip children to learn about how to develop healthy habits and reach out for help when they need it.
Resources that give children, parents and other trusted adults the tools to have those conversations and build strong relationships can make a big difference. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, digital resources have been especially useful at a time children’s mental health was at a heightened risk and access to face-to-face support was limited.
The report also finds that children with the biggest risks to their mental health are often the least well supported with their wellbeing. These include disabled children, children with behavioural difficulties, children living in rural and coastal communities, and children living in poverty.
Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said: “Younger children have too often been overlooked in measures designed to improve mental health. Yet we know that childhood experiences are hugely important and can have lasting effects on our mental health. We have been delighted to partner with A Million & Me and to learn from the brilliant projects it has supported in the last two years. We hope it shines a light on the benefits of supporting all children with their mental health, and especially those facing the biggest risks.”
Director of BBC Children in Need’s A Million & Me programme, Paddy Sloan, commented: “As a programme A Million & Me aims to empower and inspire children and young people through conversations and relationships and this report clearly validates the importance of trust and safe spaces where children can share their feelings and know that there are people there who want to hear their story, who will ask and listen and can access expert advice. It is clear that we can all help children to feel a bit better – friends, parents and other trusted individuals – and in so doing increase the likelihood of positive outcomes.”