10 Tips for Improving Mental Health For Teenagers during Covid-19

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Girls look out to sea in Sussex
Young ladies look out to sea in Sussex

May was Mental Health Awareness month internationally. All members of society are dealing with massive challenges as a consequence of the global pandemic. It is vital that we continue to care by checking in with one another regularly and asking ‘how are you?’ and taking the time to listen empathetically to the response.

Millions of young people had a big shock when Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday 18th March that all schools would close on Friday 20th to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All end of year events and parties that are a right of passage were therefore cancelled and students may not have been able to say goodbye to each other properly. This academic year cut short caused stress and sadness even though pupils all understand the good reasons why schoolkids nationally were being suddenly separated from their peers.

There are many challenges for teenagers because of all the changes Covid-19 has brought on citizens in this country and their lives and education at home. More details about how the global pandemic has affected the under 20’s can be read here how lockdown can affect teenagers

1. Lift your spirits with moving your body

Those who are able have been getting outside every day to go walking, cycling and running to help to feel physically and mentally stronger, so they can cope with the stressful situation. Exercising releases endorphins which physically help to feel great.

Running, walking, hiking outdoors and bike riding is a great way to beat the blues away. More people than even are cycling as the roads are less busy and public transport is reserved for essential trips only. Discovering places near you that you have never explored before can be very satisfying and broadens your horizons.

If you are lucky enough to have a big garden try the traditional game of croquet or playing rounders or tennis which is suitable for most ages.

2.Staying in is the new going to the gym

Exercising indoors using online instructors has become really popular and there are hundreds of tutors to suit every style of working out, dancing and aerobic activities. Yoga is helpful if something more relaxing is needed. Zumba and online clubbing events simulate going out and having a good boogie while quarantine is still in place. Just use any search engine to find sites for your favourite activity or check out Google hangouts, Zoom, You Tube, instagram, facebook and Houseparty websites for their next events.

3. Make the most of quality time

Teenagers who are lucky enough to have siblings have been spending quality time with their younger and older brothers and sisters instead of meeting their mates every day.

Spending time with grandparents and other family members if possible can really help well-being even if its in a socially isolated way at the moment.

Hugging family members, ‘urban family’ and ‘special family friends’ can be very reassuring for everyone at every age. Hugging members of the current household is still permitted and can be a nice moment in the day and a way of showing you care. Remember that we still must not hug those we do not live with in order to respect government social distancing guidelines. It is always a good idea to check with a person first before giving someone a hug.

Positive benefits of pausing a normally busy routine can be the opportunity for family members to spend more time together, depending on their situations of course. Sharing meals together and BBQ’s outside this summer can be a special time for households that are lucky enough to have outside space.

Socialising with neighbours at a safe distance can boost your mood by brightening their day and you may hear some entertaining stories about their lives too. Arranging theme supper nights can be very enjoyable and a chance to try some new dishes and listen to music from around the world.

4. Cherish your pets for well being

Being close to and petting animals can be a great source of relaxation and comfort too as well as great company when you are feeling down. Dogs are especially talented at reading their human best friend’s expressions and expert at cheering you up with their boundless cheerfulness.

5. Speak to someone about your health

It is quite normal for all human beings to have physical and mental health problems from time to time and prevention is better than cure. It always makes sense to speak to someone. If you have tried to speak with your friends and family and it is too difficult or you still need support, there is plenty of help out there.

All pharmacies are open as usual. Supermarket pharmacists can also help with advice and dispensing and are often open late into the evening.

NHS General practitioners are available for telephone and skype meetings and clinic visits by appointment. If your surgery is closed calling the NHS helpline on 111 where medical operators can share details of helpful advice and options in your location.

Regional healthcare providers have social media links and accounts with twitter and instagram so this can be an easy first stop to see what is happening in your area this month.

MIND is a national organisation that can offer help on the phone to anyone struggling with their mental health. The number for MIND in the county of Sussex is below (12) The West Sussex Wellbeing website has links with free online training for parents and carers on dealing with self harm, substance abuse and eating disorders. (8)

A good place to start if you or anyone close to you is experiencing problems with their mental health at this difficult time is by accessing your regional NHS healthcare provider’s website online, to see what help and services are available. For example for this article we will look at what Sussex and Hampshire has to offer on the south coast of England.(4)

Sussex Mental Healthline offers crisis care for people in urgent need with their mental health. It is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and the telephone number is also below. (13) Calls are usually up to 20 minutes and they can also provide support for friends and carers. Healthcare assistants can listen and provide information on services and solutions that may help young people locally. (4)

Child and Adolescence Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provide mental health services across Sussex and Hampshire. CAMHS help youngsters to “acknowledge and understand why they are behaving in a certain way, and support them in their recovery to overcome these difficulties with the most appropriate treatment.” The staff team can be a link to the right medical professionals, clinics and hospitals where required and are experienced in all mental health conditions that children can suffer with.

In more severe and complex situations it is worth knowing that there is extra support out there for teenagers. Chalkhill is a hospital in Haywards Heath in Sussex that helps children aged 12-18 experiencing emotional difficulties and health problems. Chalkhill has two wards with 16 bedrooms to accommodate young people staying during their treatment when necessary. (5)

6. Watch videos and develop new coping strategies

The A to Z of Coping strategies video includes “26 ideas, strategies and techniques to help a young person to cope better if they are experiencing stresses and pressures which are making them feel in crisis or at risk of self-harming.” The Sussex Partneship NHS Foundation Trust worked in partnership with the Police and Crime Commisioner’s Youth Commision to create a mini animation on YouTube that is full of simple tips to prevent a personal crisis and learn to develop better mental health independently. The short video is colourful and will appeal to all ages too.

7. Try new hobbies and learn new skills

This extraordinary season can be a chance to catch up on home improvement projects and making the most of your space makes sense during lockdown too.

Developing new hobbies and skills such as cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting, painting, reading, writing, computer literacy, singing or learning an instrument or a new language and many more can be a great way of creating a new routine and feeling like you are making the most of this unexpected extra time.

Libraries are open for virtual book and video downloads all around the country. They say you can learn anything on You Tube and the Open University now has more than 100 free courses on a whole range of interesting subjects.(14) BBC Iplayer, Google Play, Apple, Spotify and Audiobooks have thousands of free pod casts and documentaries to listen to and watch that will help with learning most subjects.

Listening to music, the radio, doing puzzles and playing games both analogue and online is very stimulating. Traditional board games have been in demand again. Catching up with TV series and films can all be fun and rewarding activities to do alone or with those at home with similar binge watching tastes.

6. Keep connected

Young people are usually confident with technology and using zoom, skype, Viber, WhatsApp, facebook, LinkedIn and other internet software to connect is a great way of keeping in touch. Social media can be a convenient way of making new friends with similar interests and for older teenagers some future professional contacts too.

7. Practice mindfulness

Practising mindfulness is recommended for anyone at any age who is finding life stressful and feeling anxious, angry or upset. Easy breathing exercises can help the body physically pause and overcome worries and overwhelming negative feelings. Focusing on deep breathing can help anyone become more centred and ready to constructively deal with any issues affecting their mind.

You Tube has several mindfulness videos like this one from Every Mind Matters that are simple to follow.(9)

“Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking” advises the NHS website. NHS.UK is an excellent free resource that has lots of reliable general advice about all types of mental health problems. (10)

8. Visit Young Minds hub

Young Minds website is an excellent resource for advice with how to approach coping with lots of different challenges that teenagers face this year. From racism, feeling isolated, problems with social media, drugs and alcohol and the practical consequences of all the changes coronavirus has caused this website is a real hub of positive ideas. There are stories from a whole range of under 18’s about how lockdown has been for them and how they have found a way through to keeping a healthy outlook.

9 Journal your way through

Creating a lockdown diary can help you understand how you are feeling day by day and if things are improving and why. Journaling is a brilliant way to express and reflect events that are happening and make sense of things as they change. If writing is not for you how about recording audio on your phone or laptop. Taking photos and saving in daily files on your device can make a virtual diary. A traditional sketchbook with drawings and doodles or even poems can be very cathartic.

10 Help others and feel amazing

Finding ways to make someone else’s day is a fantastic way to give yourself a morale boost. If you are able to help family members, neighbours and older relatives with practical things to make life easier for them that is a wonderful way to fill long lockdown weeks up. Sometimes a little ‘safe distanced’ company, help with gardening or a handmade treat can make all the difference to somebody’s day. Anything you can think of that will count as community service will help when looking for work experience or part time jobs in the future too.

Each council has a volunteering section on their website and there might be a local charity that you can help to make a difference. Helping delivering groceries to those who can’t go out at this time could be an idea. Raising money for good causes through receiving sponsorship is a good way of finding a new project or goal to work towards, which will keep you busy with preparing and training and thinking about the positive things ahead.

Teaming up with friends and relatives your own age and catching up every day or every week on the telephone or video call can make a huge difference with preventing loneliness. Anything you can do at the same time as your pal like watching a movie, cooking, gaming or beauty therapy can be a jolly way to make a long evening better.

Relationships with your best buddies can be strengthened by giving and receiving encouragement. Swapping tales of funny things that have happened and ‘having a laugh’ with mates during lockdown helps to keep a sense of humour and increases the feeling that ‘we are all in this together’ and getting through it just fine.

 

(1) Mind ‘for better mental health’ 10 June 2020 Mind ‘for better health’   The telephone number for MIND in Sussex region is 01903 721893 / 07495 077341

(2) West Sussex Wellbeing, 10 June 2020 West Sussex Wellbeing

(3) NHS National Health Service UK website ‘How to access mental health services’ 10 June 2020 NHS UK website

‘5 Steps to mental wellbeing’ NHS website, 10 June 2020 NHS website 5 steps to wellbeing

(4) ‘Sussex Mental Healthline’ Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, 3 June 2020 Sussex Mental Healthline Sussex Mental Healthline telephone number is 0300 5000 101

(5) ‘Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)’ Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

10 June 2020 CAMHS Sussex partnership NHS Trust

(6) Our Mental Health Space – Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – A to Z of coping strategies

10 June 2020 Sussex partnership NHS Trust

(7) OpenLearn free courses The Open University, 10 June 2020 OpenLearn Open University courses

(8) ‘Mindful Breathing Exercise’ Every Mind Matters, 10 June 2020 Mindful Breathing Exercise Every Mind Matters

(9) ‘Mental health Statistics’ Young Minds, 10 June 2020 Mental Health Statistics Young Minds