CHICKS on Children's Mental Health Week

CHICKS on Children's Mental Health Week

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week in the UK, hosted by charity Place2Be. We wanted to take the opportunity to explore the work our charity partner CHICKS do with disadvantaged children in the UK, and how it has a positive impact on their mental health. We recommend you visit their website - CHICKS Website

In this forever changing world of smartphones and social media, anxiety and depression, ADHD and adolescent self-harm… Now thinking about the young people in your life, do you know what issues they face on a day-to-day basis?

Looking at The mental health of children and young people in London Report (Dec 2016), more than 110,000 children in London, or around one in 10, suffer with significant mental ill health according to the 2016 report from Public Health England (PHE). The report has been published to support commissioners to take action in improving the mental health of children and young people (CYP). Hospital admissions were 4.5x higher in the Camden (226.5 children per 100,000 population) compared to Redbridge (49.8 children per 100,000 population).

Some key findings:

  • 50% of those with a lifetime mental illness (excluding dementia) will experience symptoms by the age of 14
  • 10% of children aged 5 to 16 suffer from a clinically significant mental health illness
  • maternal depression is associated with a fivefold increased risk of mental ill health in the child
  • 60% of looked after children have some form of emotional or mental ill health
  • there is a 50% increased risk of mortality in people who are depressed
  • people who suffer with mental ill health, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, die on average 16 to 25 years sooner than the general population

The children that visit CHICKS on break spend a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors in beautiful countryside locations, playing by the beach, flying kites on Dartmoor or walking in the Peak District. They are surrounded the positive, supportive adult roles models, making attachments with 15 other children and playing interactive games in natural spaces to create challenges and adventure as well as peaceful, reflective experiences. Children learn about themselves and how they interact with the world through the natural consequences and feedback that the environment provides. They have a reassuring network of professionally trained staff… and they can just be kids.

Peter’s Story

Peter*, aged 15, leads an incredibly isolated life. Peter helps to care for his mother and older brother; his mother suffers with poor mobility and his brother has mental health issues as well as problems with substance misuse. Peter worries a great deal about his family and this has negatively impacted on his own mental health. He is incredibly anxious, has low self-esteem and has also disclosed to his teachers that he often feels depressed. When he is at home, Peter often keeps himself hidden away in his room playing computer games. Peter’s parents have a volatile relationship and therefore Peter often shuts himself in his room to keep away from any conflict; in the past, Peter’s father has become violent and Peter and his mother have previously left the home as a result of this domestic abuse. Peter’s school life has also been affected as he struggles to engage in class, is often absent from lessons and has few friends. Peter’s college referred him to CHICKS as they felt that a break away would help him to make new friends outside of the school setting, boosting his confidence and improving his self-esteem.

When Peter first arrived at CHICKS he was incredibly nervous, barely speaking to anyone on the first day. However, with lots of support and encouragement from the Respite Break Leaders, Peter gradually began to come out of his shell, growing more confident with each day that passed. On the Tuesday, the group went to the beach where Peter had a great time building a boat out of sand. He received lots of praise from his peers for his efforts and was visibly overwhelmed by their kind words. By the Wednesday, Peter was feeling comfortable enough to join in with the daily ‘best bits’ discussion, describing his stay at CHICKS as “the best time of my life!” By the end of the week Peter seemed like a different child, laughing and joking with his new friends and eagerly challenging himself during activities such as horse riding. On the very last day Peter turned to the Respite Break Leaders and confided, “I was so scared on Monday, but I needn’t have been – it’s fantastic!!”

*name changed to protect child’s privacy.

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