What young people need for their mental wellbeing

Support the wellbeing of children and young people, while looking after your own mental health.

Navigating challenges

Parenting, caring for or working with a child or young person can be rewarding, as well as challenging.

While we want to protect our young people, we cannot prevent difficult times from affecting them.

It’s natural to feel a strong wave of emotions – worried, stressed, helpless – during these difficult times.

You should never feel like you have to cope on your own.

There is plenty of help to help you support the wellbeing of children and young people, while looking after your own mental health.

What affects them

According to statistics from The Health Foundation, one in six young people in the UK (aged 6-16) has a probable mental health condition.

This is supported by the record high number of children and young people being referred to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), waiting to see a specialist or assessed as needing help.

According to NHS Digital, between July 2021 and July 2022 referrals increased by 24.1%, reaching an all-time high of 457,380 in May last year.

While the increasing numbers of children and young people seeking psychological support is heartening, it’s evident the mental health of young people is a growing concern.

Sources of distress

Sometimes what affects a child or young person can be obvious – the death of a loved one, a natural disaster destroying their home – and sometimes it is not.

Even overhearing frequent arguing can be traumatic for a child or young person.

When their sense of safety is rocked, they may not have the words or confidence to communicate what they are feeling.

Some possible causes:

  • Accidents
  • Bullying/cyberbullying
  • Issues in the home
  • Death of a loved one
  • Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • Physical, educational, emotional, or medical neglect
  • National disasters
  • Sudden or serious medical condition
  • Refugee or war experiences

Signs to be aware of

Everyone will experience difficult times where they feel anxious, low or irritable.

According to the NHS, around one in eight children and young people experience behavioural or emotional problems.

Some of these can continue to have an impact, often in response to certain events and changes.

These can look like:

  • Significant changes in behaviour
  • Ongoing difficulty sleeping
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Not wanting to do things they usually like
  • Self-harm or neglecting themselves

If these changes do not reside or are significantly affecting them, it is time to seek professional help.

How to help

When mental health issues are not addressed, they can have long-term effects on anyone, including children and young people.

There are positive things you can do which can improve the quality of someone’s life, making them less susceptible to trauma.

Every Mind Matters provides some of their top tips:

  • Be there to listen – Regularly ask how they’re doing so they get used to talking about their feelings.
  • Stay involved in their life – Show interest in their lives and the things important to them.
  • Take what they say seriously – Listening and valuing what they say without judging their feelings makes them feel valued.
  • Support them through difficulties – Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour and try to help them work through difficulties.
  • Encourage their interests – Support and encourage them to explore their interests, whatever they are.
  • Build positive routines – Regular sleep, healthy eating and exercise routines are some of the things you can help them do each day.


For children living with disability or additional needs