Child protection extends further than keeping children safe and intervening in abusive, violent or exploitative situations. And the mandate to protect children is broader than only social and health workers. Child protection includes mental health support, which is an important area where children and adolescents need support. Therefore, anyone who interacts with children and adolescents can benefit by having a deeper understanding of how to provide mental support. Doing a specialised short courses within this area can equip people to provide such support.
What is Mental Health?
Mental Health is an individual’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. It impacts everyday functionality. Such as the ability to learn or work, make decisions, implement emotional regulation, and have social interactions. Consequently, safeguarding a child or adolescent’s mental well-being is an important aspect of better ensuring their success in life.
The Need for Child Protection
In many cases, children who require protection need it from those they trust. The most common contexts are within home and school situations. Children can be exploited physically, emotionally and sexually – often by those whose care they are under. Outside of a home or school situation, humanitarian s emergency situations tend to make children particularly vulnerable. For example, natural disasters and armed conflict. What can easily be overlooked or swept aside are harmful cultural practices. Such as child marriage or female genital mutilation. As well as inter-generationally learnt behaviours which could perpetuate gender-based violence (GBV).
However, not all child and adolescent mental anguish occurs in these types of extreme settings. Many children and adolescents in average contexts still need mental health support to cope with their everyday lives. This means that understanding the causes and treatment of childhood disorders, theories of development and basic counselling can greatly assist caregivers and parents of children and adolescents.
Furthermore, it has been found that between 10 and 20% of children and adolescents experience some sort of mental health challenge. For example, attention deficiencies, negative moods, lack of motivation or cognitive disturbances. These, and other mental health problems, negatively affect a child or adolescent’s ability to learn. Which can have long term repercussions.
When Should Mental Health Care Start?
Human development is influenced by many factors. It has been found that the first thousand days, from conception to 2 years old, are critical when it comes to healthy development and growth. During these first two years, an infant’s brain can create a thousand new neural connections every second. Effectively, this means that nurturing and supporting the mental health of a child begins at birth. Thereafter, it needs to continue through childhood and adolescence.
What Skills are Beneficial to Support Mental Health Care?
According to Educational Psychologist Dr Laila Jeebodh-Desai, holistic development can be better achieved when all aspects of a child’s well-being are nurtured. This includes their physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual needs. One of the ways that this can be achieved is by teaching a child mindfulness.
There are also practical tools and approaches that parents and caregivers can take to support a child or adolescents’ mental health.
6 Ways to Support Mental Health
- Be present and listen to them.
- Actively stay involved in their life.
- Value what they say by taking it seriously.
- Encourage them through difficulties.
- Nurture their individual interests.
- Build positive routines.
It is also important to be able to understand the types of challenges a child might face as well as their impact. Thus, being able to identify a problem or something that could detract from mental wellbeing is a necessary skill. There are several ways that a parent or child-carer can efficiently do this. One of which is to do short courses that focus on child and adolescent development or mental health care.
How to Gain Skills to Support Child and Adolescent Mental Health
SACAP Global offers a range of short courses, several of which focus on childhood and adolescent mental health and development. For more information, browse the SACAP Global courses or contact us for further information on upcoming courses.