**Coming soon** At Aye Mind, we're all about inspiring professionals to confidently use digital technologies to support young people's mental health and wellbeing. We're currently working behind the scenes to refresh our site, so stay tuned for more updates.
**Coming soon** At Aye Mind, we're all about inspiring professionals to confidently use digital technologies to support young people's mental health and wellbeing. We're currently working behind the scenes to refresh our site, so stay tuned for more updates.
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Mental Health

Aye Mind does not offer direct support for mental health issues and is not continuously monitored for messages. If you need an ambulance, call 999. If you or someone around you is in distress or need immediate help, click here to find a list of services you can talk to.

In this section, you’ll find:

1. The Basics

We all have mental health just as we all have physical health. Our minds can become unwell just like our bodies can become unwell. Yet we are more likely to talk about our physical health than we are about our mental health.

Mental health problems are actually more common than you think. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 of us in any year. The effects are as real as a broken leg or broken arm, even though there isn’t a sling or plaster cast to show for it.

According to a survey in schools: 14% of students aged 15-16 said they had self-harmed: three times more common in girls than boys. More recent survey shows higher figures: 22% of those aged 15 had self-harmed. Again, rates were three times as high for girls (32% of girls compared to 11% of boys). The majority of those self-harming said they did so once a month or more. Half of all lifetime cases of psychiatric disorders start by age 14 and ¾ by age 24. Some estimates suggest the majority start before age 18. Surveys shows around 13% of boys and 10% of girls aged 11-15 have mental health problems

The most common problems for boys are conduct problems. For girls they are emotional difficulties .

“Adolescence and young adulthood is a key developmental period in anyone’s life. Failing to recognise and respond to mental health issues experienced by young people can blight their whole lives. Neglect on the scale we see today is not only morally indefensible but also very costly.”

Young Minds, Read more here

In the video below, Martin Knapp talks more about mental health and young people.

2. Spot the Signs

Perhaps you’re worried about a young person’s mental health. How do you know if their behaviour is an illness, or something caused by difficult events in their life? Things happen that can make us vulnerable. Bereavement, friendship or family breakups, bullying, stress such as exams can lead to distress. When this distress doesn’t settle after a while, it can turn into mental health problems.

Take the time to observe the young person’s behaviour and look out for the following signs :

  • Have they become more withdrawn than usual? Are they avoiding social contact and refusing invitations?
  • Have you noticed them crying? Puffy cheeks and red eyes can hint they’ve been crying in private.
  • Has their performance at school or work gone downhill lately?
  • Have you noticed significant changes in their eating habits? i.e. eating a lot or little.
  • Are they looking dishevelled or like they haven’t taken care of themselves for a while?
  • Do they seem lethargic, like they’re not quite there?
  • Have you noticed a change in how they speak? I.e. rapidly, incoherently, or slowly.
  • Do they seem to be spending extravagant amounts of money?

Remember that every mental health problem has its own signs and symptoms. If you have a feeling something isn’t quite right with someone you know well, then chances are it’s not.

“Listen to those instincts. They could be the only reason that person gets the help they need.”

3. Break Down the Stigma

People are becoming more comfortable talking about health but what about their mental health? Things are getting better but unfortunately there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. It prevents many people from talking about their worries.

The more we talk about mental health; the more it becomes the ‘norm’. We can help break down the stigma and discrimination. If you’re worried about your mental health, or someone you care about, help is available.

Young people with experience of mental health problems say that talking to others is the most important thing in their recovery. Sharing how they felt help them to realise they aren’t alone.

In Scotland, the See Me programme helps mobilise people to take action against mental health stigma and discrimination, including a focus on young people and you can join forces with their movement for change.

There are lots of good resources out there if you need some hints and tips – don’t be afraid to look them up. Time to Change, for example, offers a wide range of free resources for youth professionals to help create an open, supportive culture around mental health. Click here to see more.

4. Start the Conversation

Mental health problems affect almost every family. Yet as a nation, we struggle to have an open conversation about it. Misconceptions, fears of social consequences, discomfort and discrimination all tend to keep people silent. Meanwhile, if they get help, most people recover and lead happy and productive lives.

You don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health. It’s often the little things you do and say that make a difference. Ask ‘How are you?’ and mean it.

While you may not ever know how they feel inside, you can help by inviting them to talk about how they feel. If they’re not ready to open up, it still shows that someone is there to listen.

The Samaritans have some helpful tips on starting a conversation.

  • Often people want to talk, but wait until someone asks how they are. Try asking open questions: What happened about? Tell me about…? How do you feel about…?
  • Repeat back what they say to show you understand, and ask more questions.
  • Focus on their feelings instead of trying to solve the problem – it can be of more help and shows you care. Respect what they tell you.

Sometimes we want to fix a person’s problems, or give them advice. Let them make their own decisions.

5. Look After Yourself

As youth workers, teachers, social workers and clinicians we make time for everyone. We often don’t make enough time for ourselves.

It is important to you look after yourself. Self-care is about creating and maintaining practices that help you sustain your wellbeing. It makes you a better youth worker, teacher, mentor, friend, community member, and caregiver. Giving to others but neglecting yourself can lead to feelings of resentment. Taking good care of yourself allow you to enjoy time with others in the long run. Self-care is not selfish. Take time to reflect, nurture your body, remember your heart, grieve your sorrows and attend to your needs.

For further advice, see:

Compassion Fatigue, Top 12 Self-Care Tips
Stress, Self-Care
Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress

6. Training

There is a wide range of training to support a young person’s mental health.

‘Mindset’ is an e-module for people who have no previous training in mental health. It gives an overview of mental health improvement. It includes promoting positive mental health and recovering from mental health problems. Access the module here.

There is also a self-harm e-learning module for people who have no previous training in this area. It gives an overview of self-harm and how to support those who do self-harm. Click here to access it.

MindEd is a free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health. It provides a wide range of e-learning modules.

E-learning modules are a good starting point but don’t replace face-to-face learning. Greater Glasgow and Clyde Child and Youth Group publishes a booklet of training suggestions. These include Scottish Mental Health First Aid Young People, ASIST, and Self-harm Training etc. See more here.

7. Background

Scotland The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy for Scotland 2012-15 aims to provide quality care for people with a mental illness, their carers and families. The Strategy has specific sections for children and young people:

  • Work better with families and carers
  • Embed more peer-to-peer work and support
  • Support self-management and self-help approaches
  • Fight stigma
  • Focus on the rights of those with mental illness
  • Personal, social and clinical outcomes approach
  • Use IT digital services

In Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Mental Health Improvement & Early Intervention Strategy for Children and Young People (2012) rests on 6 key principles.


8. Reflective Practice

Preparing a short reflection after each learning activity is a good habit. It is a way of studying your own experiences to improve the way you work. Reflection helps you become a more confident, proactive and qualified professional. You become more aware of your style of working and how you approach supporting a young person. It helps close the gap between theory and practice.

You can use various models to ‘kick start’ the habit of reflective practice. For example, Gibbs’ reflective cycle is a process involving six steps:

  • Description – What happened?
  • Feelings – What did you think and feel about it?
  • Evaluation – What were the positives and negatives?
  • Analysis – What sense can you make of it?
  • Conclusion – What else could you have done?
  • Action Plan – What will you do next time?



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