Category

Mental health

kids in a line

Why recognising the early signs of mental health issues in children is crucial

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Children and young people’s mental health has never been so high on the public agenda. Figures released recently show that 5% of children aged five to 10 have conduct disorder; this increases to 7% as young people approach secondary school years (Green et al.) and referrals to child mental health units from UK primary schools for pupils aged 11 and under have risen by nearly 50% in three years.
In May this year, former Prime Minister Theresa May announced a funding package to provide teachers and care workers with training on how to spot the signs of mental health issues. The wide-ranging package of measures make sure staff have the confidence and skills they need to identify mental health issues in young people before they become critical.

However, concerns have already been raised about the lack of mental health services available to young people once issues have been identified. Shadow Health Secretary Barbara Keeley said: “Once again we hear warm words from the Prime Minister on mental health, but the reality is that mental health services are stretched to breaking point and people with mental health problems aren’t getting the support they need.”

The most common mental health problem affecting children are conduct disorders (severe and persistent behavioural problems). Severe and persistent behavioural problems starting before secondary school years which go unsupported can have a long-term impact on children’s mental health and life chances.

Early years and education providers have a responsibility to provide staff with the training and support required to recognise early signs of mental health problems at this young age. Equipping staff with the skills to recognise warning signs and behaviours could lead to a child gaining the support they need to maintain mental wellbeing.

It’s a subject very close to the heart of Ann Poolton, Head of CPD Courses at BB Training, and her team. “We are very passionate about this issue. Not only can early identification save children from stressful situations, but it ensures staff are better placed to support young people in their care. We continue to offer best practice advise and training on this subject both internally and externally, as we understand the importance of promoting good mental health for children and staff alike.”

The funding now available should be used by employers to provide the necessary training required to give teachers the confidence and ability to cope with the rise in mental health issues in children.

Ann concluded: “For people working with young children, it is key that they are able to recognise the early signs of mental health problems and understand how to develop strategies to build resilience in children. The environment they grow up in, and their ability to handle the pressures and stresses of growing up, all play an important role in preventing problems from developing.”

couple

Unsolicited advice parenting your own way

By | family, Mental health, Relationships

Somehow, having a baby seems to grant everyone around you a green card in telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with your child. From breastfeeding, to sleeping, playing, dressing, cleaning, and even speaking to your baby, there isn’t one aspect that goes unnoticed by self-proclaimed parenting experts.
Whether you’re a first or fourth time parent, having a new baby can be both the most wonderful time of your life, and the most emotionally draining. The last thing you need is other people – family members, strangers, parents and non-parents alike – adding to that stress and affecting you.

Nelsons Teetha®, the homeopathic teething relief brand has put together a list of conflict-free ways to help you deal with different scenarios in order to help you keep your cool in frustrating situations.

Parents – “That’s not how we did it with you”
Dealing with advice from your parents can be difficult to manoeuvre, especially if you disagree. After all, they are the ones who raised you, and the advice will come from a place of love. Not only that, but they’ve probably grown used to you turning to them for advice. However, there is a fine line between offering suggestions because they want to help and offering comments because they disapprove of what you have chosen to do with your baby. Though you might not want to dismiss their knowledge entirely, being related can offer the chance to explain yourself clearly without causing too much offense. You might want to explain that you appreciate all the help they have provided but that you will be the one to turn to them if you need advice. Be honest with them, they are your parents and putting off telling them how you feel might make you grow to resent them.

In-laws – “I think it would be best if…”
The in-laws situation is arguably trickier than dealing with your own parents. They will have a whole range of things to say about how they raised their children that obviously have nothing to do with you. Instead of snapping back at them and causing an uncomfortable family situation, you could turn the situation around and ask them some questions. Switch the focus to them and then change the conversation. If all else fails, talk to your partner about presenting a united front. Just as you might be more comfortable telling your own parents not to give unsolicited advice, so might your partner be to their parents.

Parent-friends – “Are you really going to do that?”
Friends who are parents themselves might also be prone to chiming in with comments about your parenting skills. Like your in-laws, they will have their own set of views that might differ completely to yours. Agreeing to disagree might be the best option here. Handle it in a way you might other topics, such as religion or politics. Simply tell them that you have decided to do something in one way, that you are totally fine with them doing it in another and that you should leave it at that.

Non-parent-friends – “I’ve heard that you should…”
It can be frustrating when someone who does not have children decides to tell you how you should raise yours, however try not to take it personally. Know your facts, trust your instincts and maybe try to educate your friend. Clarify the point they have made a comment about with an expert’s view, or knowledge you have received from a doctor. The more they know, the less likely they will be to make a comment again.

Strangers – “You’re putting your child at risk!”
There are quite a few online threads where parents post the craziest things that strangers have told them and it’s hard to imagine what you would do in those situations. Though getting defensive might be your initial response, there are a few things you can do to dismiss the stranger without causing a scene. The first would be to ignore them and keep walking, after all, you don’t owe them anything. If they persist, you could politely thank them but tell them you know what you are doing. If this doesn’t work, then you have every right to kindly tell them to mind their own business.

Ultimately, your life as a parent will be filled with a vast array of conflicting advice and information. Whether it’s through books, doctors, friends, family or strangers, everybody will have their own way of doing things. The best thing to do is to educate yourself, learn how to deal with different situations, and most importantly, to trust your own instincts as a parent. As long as you know that you are making the best decisions for your child, you are doing the right thing!

Children of all ages

By | family, fun for children, Mental health, Relationships
by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

Who was not enamoured when Channel 4 first brought preschoolers together with residents in a retirement village in 2017 for ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’? While there had already been much to indicate that intergenerational interaction was positive, this six week experiment showed that afterwards 80% of the older people scored better on tests of cognition, mood and depression than they had at the outset. There were improvements in physical skills such as balance and mobility and beautiful relationships blossomed between the old and the young too. When the series returned to our screens in 2018 for a 10 week study, this time, the outcomes were measured for the children as well. Child expert Alistair Bryce Clegg found that the children made unexpected progress in areas of empathy, language, independence and imagination.

Sadly, Britain which has a steadily ageing population has become one of the most age segregated countries in the world, according to research, by United for All Ages and the Intergenerational Foundation. As our society develops the old and the young are becoming more separated with fewer opportunities for them to interact. Statistics from a recent Intergenerational Foundation report, suggest that children living in urban areas have only a 5% chance of having someone aged over 65 living in their area. Living apart damages intergenerational relations and makes it harder for the old and the young to understand one another. Additionally it can lead to marginalisation and exclusion.

Age UK says that more than a million of our older people feel lonely. International research project Together Old and Young (TOY) demonstrates that social engagement between generations is important for us all. Intergenerational learning can help to bridge the gaps between different social groups. Older people have wisdom, heritage and experience to pass on and young children are creative and have original ways of thinking. Both age groups have much to learn from each other and their interaction appears to offer benefits including enhanced health wellbeing and the fostering of social cohesion, acceptance and appreciation of diversity. Older people can experience enhanced feelings of purpose and self-esteem and younger people can view old age more positively.

Putting it into practice
My mum is 80 years old and regularly volunteers in our preschool. Although her way of interacting with the children may not be as tactful as the practitioners, particularly when it comes to matters of discipline, the children value her no nonsense approach and enjoy her company as much as she enjoys theirs. Seeing them together fuelled my desire to get an intergenerational project off the ground, something I had been keen to do since learning about co-located early years and elder care facilities such as Mount Pleasant in America and watching the ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’. Eager to discover more, I undertook an online course delivered by TOY aimed at bringing under eights and over 65s together. The course materials explored intergenerational learning and how it could be applied in a meaningful way, in a range of contexts. I learned that the sharing of experiences and relationship building was one of a number of effective approaches to intergenerational interaction.

With this in mind, I got in contact with a local Afro-Caribbean heritage association and invited some members to participate in a short programme of African drumming alongside some of our children. Old and young enjoyed the sessions and although we were not able to sustain it on a longer term basis, it is definitely something we would repeat. Our next opportunity came when we were invited by a local drama group to join in a project with a local care home that involved monthly visits to participate in dramatic story telling and play activities with the residents. After a term’s worth of visits it can be seen already that they have had a huge impact. The children, including one who has a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder and another who is a selective talker, really enjoy seeing their ‘grandfriends’. They have steadily gained confidence and have become much more interactive with the residents. The residents themselves are always thrilled to see the children. The number of them becoming involved has grown and one of the highlights has been witnessing one lady who is reported as being uncommunicative, smile when a child handed her a scarf so that she could join in the fun.

Engaging with the residents at the care home has supported the children’s personal and social development and broadened their experiences. They view their ‘grandfriends’ as capable, fun and very special. If you can find an opportunity for your child to engage with an older person, grab it with both hands, you will be glad you did.

Emotional resilience

By | Education, family, Mental health
by Chloe Webster and Bridgit Brown
Pebbles Childcare

As practitioners, we know only too well how important supporting children’s personal, social and emotional development is, particularly in today’s society where children’s mental health (and mental health in general) is so prevalent. There are staggering statistics from the Mental Health Foundation that say at least one in 10 children (aged five to16 years) experience some form of mental illness (including anxiety and depression) as a direct response of things they have experienced, yet as many as 70% of these children will not have received sufficient interventions within their early years. (www.mentalhealth.org.uk)
So what can we do as practitioners to reduce these staggering statistics and equip our children’s emotional arsenal adequately enough to deal with the trials and tribulations the modern world puts upon them as they grow up?

sad little girlAs settings, we should place the children’s emotional development, resilience and intelligence at the forefront of everything we do, because how can we expect children to learn literacy, maths and problem solving skills when they aren’t emotionally ready to learn? As practitioners we need to support the emotional wellbeing of the children we care for, ensuring that they are aware of their emotions, what they mean and how to manage them. Then children can develop their understanding of the emotional needs of others and how we can be mindful and supportive of each other in order to develop friendships and relationships.

Encouraging children to be emotionally intelligent and resilient doesn’t have to be difficult; the earlier we introduce children to becoming aware of and feeling their emotions, the more likely they will be to grow into emotionally balanced and intelligent young people.

The behaviours children display is an outwards response of the emotions they are feeling and trying to process, and it is our job to not only support them with processing these emotions but also to allow them to truly ‘feel’ their emotions before understanding why they are feeling them and how to deal with them and process them adequately. Children need the opportunities to experience a wide range of emotions in order to develop the appropriate skills to recognise, identify and manage each emotion; if we try to ‘protect’ children from ‘negative’ feelings (anger, sadness, fear) then how will they ever possess the emotional tools to process these emotions constructively.

For children, understanding and ‘owning’ their emotions is supported by their developing language and their understanding of the words and phrases we, as practitioners, use in relation to their emotions.

The words we use to identify, recognise, discuss and process emotions and behaviours has a significant impact on how children will react, respond and understand the varying emotions they feel. For example; instead of saying “Don’t be scared” when a child is feeling fearful, we could ask them “What are you scared of?”, “Why are you feeling scared?”, “What scares you about this?” This way, the child begins to mentally process the emotion and feelings they are experiencing, and dissect it to begin to understand ‘why’ they feel this type of emotion and how to overcome it with the support of a familiar adult. Similarly, simply telling a child “Stop crying”, “You don’t need to cry”, doesn’t support their emotional intelligence and enable them to investigate why they are crying or what it is that is causing them to feel upset.

It is our job as childcare providers to support the children in our care in understanding and dealing with their emotions, in addition to supporting them in understanding and being empathic towards the feelings and emotions of other children in the setting too.

As adults, we know that emotionally we all have different triggers, different ways of dealing with the emotions we experience; children are exactly the same and will all process and react to a range of emotions with varying levels of behaviour. It is our duty as their key people to determine, understand and support each child’s individual emotional range, find tools to support them in processing and understanding each emotion, before encouraging them to identify and support the emotions of their peers.

In order to meet children’s emotional needs, they will need a number of things. Firstly, an emotionally rich environment supported by emotionally intelligent adults, in addition to resources that provide children with the opportunity to explore different emotions of different people, opportunities to practise and identify various emotions as well as the opportunity to practice how to support and process the emotions of others.

Providing children with various resources to support them in exploring these things through their play and in their own time, is fundamental to cementing their learning and understanding of emotions.

We need to provide children with a wide variety of stories and books that discuss and explore different real-life scenarios that can unleash different emotions (parental separation, moving house, the transition to school or to a new setting, a new baby, to name but a few) and explore how these are addressed and managed through stories as well as a vast array of imaginative play experiences to practise and develop the skills needed to identify and support the emotions of others.

Where developmentally appropriate, introducing simple mindfulness activities and techniques to provide the children with the time and space to think about, feel and process their feelings in a constructive and calm way is conducive to the resilience of the children’s emotional wellbeing as well as their emotional intelligence.

Yoga is a wonderful activity for focusing on movements that enable children to breathe, take control of their body and mind and focus on each movement and breath they are taking which instils a feeling of calm amongst the children. For our older children, making their own ‘Worry jars’ is a great activity and resource to have within your setting; a small jar that the children can create freely by combining coloured water and glitter/sequins/buttons. The message behind these jars is that when the child feels angry/sad/anxious they can physically express these feelings by shaking the jar vigorously and calm themselves by focusing on watching the glitter/sequins/buttons settle; therefore allowing the child time to mindfully focus on their feelings and the process of watching the materials settle allows the child’s feelings to settle and calm too. These jars not only support the child in managing their emotions productively but also provide the child with ownership of their own emotions and behaviour management.

We all have a role to play as professionals and parents to ensure that we know how to adequately support the mental health and emotional intelligence of our young children, in order to support and help them in growing into emotionally balanced and strong young adults.

Brighton-Festival

Art saves lives

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, Playing, reading, Relationships, Theatre
by Eleanor Costello
Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival

Young people face new challenges every day. From navigating the complexities of an ever-changing Internet culture to fighting for their future in an era of climate crisis. Art provides opportunities for everyone to make sense of the world, to test our boundaries and let our imagination thrive. Children benefit from having the opportunity to read books, go to theatre shows and to make their own art.

The acclaimed poet and Brighton Festival 2020 Guest Director, Lemn Sissay said; “Art saves lives, it literally saves lives. Art is how we translate the human spirit. That’s why you have art and religions. That’s why people sing. That’s why we read poems at funerals and weddings, we need some bridge between the spiritual, the physical, the past, the present, the future.”

Through events like Brighton Festival, young people can explore, discover and participate in the arts. For 30 years the Children’s Parade has officially marked the start of Brighton Festival, with over 5,000 participants, including 3,473 school children, stepping into show stopping costumes they have designed and made themselves. Around 10,000 people come along to see the parade and be part of the largest annual children’s event in the UK. The parade is a unique event produced by community arts organisation, Same Sky, which offers thousands of young people the chance to come together in creations they’ve designed around a central theme, giving them a sense of belonging. In 2020, the Children’s Parade theme is Nature’s Marvels, offering a platform for participants to think more about the world and environment around them.

Stories fire the imagination, invite us to empathise with and understand others, give children the creativity needed to face the world and even the tools to change it. Young City Reads is an annual Brighton Festival and Collected Works CIC reading project. A book is selected for primary school children in Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond to read and discuss, culminating in a final event with the book’s author at the Festival in May. In 2019, over 3,000 pupils took part in free weekly activities. For 2020, the chosen book is Malamander by Thomas Taylor, featuring a daring duo Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma who team up to solve the mystery of a legendary sea-monster. This is a chance for schools across the county to foster a love of reading in young people and give support to teaching staff to think outside the box with their curriculum.

Hilary Cooke, Brighton Festival Children’s Literature Producer says; “Children’s book events are an opportunity to turn the private activity of reading into a shared experience. Being in a room with a new (or favourite) author and a group of young readers is quite magical, with laughter, imagination and surprise. Illustrators drawing live on stage create another layer of creativity that is beautiful to watch (and possibly my favourite thing).” Due East, Hangleton and Knoll Project and the community steering committees enable local residents to make their vision come to life in Our Place, a Brighton Festival event that has been running for three years. Pop up performances take place across Hangleton and East Brighton with a community event in each area. Seeing arts and culture being celebrated and given a platform in their own neighbourhood opens the door for young people to think differently about the places they live in.

Brighton Festival offers opportunities for young people in Brighton and beyond to experience groundbreaking, original and spectacular performances by international artists. Australian company, Gravity & Other Myths bring a new jaw-dropping circus show bound to blow the minds of aspiring acrobats, Drag Queen Story Time gives children the opportunity to be who they want to be with a LGBTQ friendly storytelling, and hilarious theatre show Slime allows two to five year olds to squish and squelch their way through a tale about a slug and caterpillar.

May is a time of spectacular celebration across the county, with Brighton Fringe, The Great Escape, Artist Open Studios and Charleston Festival in addition to Brighton Festival’s jam-packed programme.

Supporting the next generation of art-goers is integral to Brighton Festival’s spirit and this year’s programme aims to bring a variety of events for children and young people – from infants to Instagrammers. Children of all ages can discover, create and participate in the arts, giving them unexpected and enriching experiences that can be shared with their friends or family. Many events are free, others starting as low as £5 and there are often family offers so the whole clan can come along.

Head to www.brightonfestival.org today to find out what’s happening at Brighton Festival from 2nd to 24th May 2020.

child bouncing

Stay active all winter

By | children's health, Health, Mental health, play, Playing, Uncategorized

We’re all aware that regular physical activity is important and has many health benefits. But even some very active children have a difficult time keeping exercise going during the winter months. The weather is probably horrible, it gets dark earlier, and a ‘duvet day’ can be very appealing!
However, whatever the weather, it’s important to keep little ones active and help them stay that way by developing an exercise habit from before they even start school. The NHS recommends that to maintain a basic level of health, children aged five to 18 need to do:

• At least 60 minutes of physical activity every day – this should range from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground activities, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis.
• On three days a week, these activities should involve exercises for strong muscles, such as push-ups, and exercises for strong bones, such as jumping and running.

This sounds a lot but can be made more manageable by combining structured activity classes with fun exercises at home, and building fitness into your everyday routine. It can then help promote healthy weight management and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Get outside
Just because it’s cold outside does not mean you have to stay inside! The key is to wrap everyone up in layers and to keep moving. Moving around outside and getting your heart rate up will help keep you warm as well. Walk to school or part of the way, once a week, go to the park, or play outside with friends. Children’s farms still have plenty going on in the winter and there is lots of space to run around in. Most of them now have vast outdoor play areas and you can warm up with a hot chocolate in the café afterwards.

Choose another indoor location
Especially in the winter months, getting out of the house will help prevent children getting cabin fever, and can mean they will sleep better at night. Try choosing a location that also incorporates physical activity with lots of fun such as a leisure pool, soft play centre, ice rink or indoor climbing.

Enrol children into a new class
If you want to get your children involved in something fun and consistent, enrol them in a regular class. It’s a great way to try something new, be active, and meet new people – for them and you. Trying new activities is a great way to figure out what children might like. There are lots of classes for preschool children upwards. Classes for preschoolers are all about having
fun while being active. Classes are age-appropriate, and babies can start at many of them from six months, and so by the time they reach school age exercise has become a healthy habit for them, and their social skills will also be enhanced.

Build exercise into your routine
Everyday activities can count as exercise too, as long as your children are getting their heart rates up. Things like walking the dog, biking to the shops, or going to the park on the way home from school all help. Incorporating these activities into your children’s daily routines will help them develop a healthy lifestyle that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. An hour a day is the target, but these activities can be accumulated throughout the day not necessarily all at once.

Limit screen time
We are all aware that even very young children are spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen, which includes television, videogames, computers and phones. Whilst children are at primary school you are almost completely in charge of what they eat and what they watch, so don’t let them get used to spending hours in front of a screen every day. If screen time isn’t allowed to become a habit whilst they are young, you will have far less problems getting them off screens as they become older.

In order for children to find exercise fun, they need lots of variety. And when they find exercise enjoyable, they are much more likely to stick with it over an extended period of time. Avoid the boredom factor by offering as many different options for activity as possible. Plus, trying new physical activities together as a family will not only benefit your children’s health, but can help fight the winter ‘blues’ too. So, get up, get moving, and stay active this winter!

Is your child anxious?

By | children's health, Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships

Are you finding it hard to get support?
Help is at hand…

 

Half of all lifetime anxiety disorders emerge before the age of twelve with around 15% of children being thought to suffer from an anxiety disorder.
(Anxiety UK)

A certain amount of this emotion is considered to be normal in everyday life but once it begins to impact upon a child in a negative and persistent way it becomes a problem. Sometimes it revolves around a child’s social life and friendship issues. It may be more about fear of failing academically. It could include uncertainty about the future, fear of the dark, problems sleeping and school avoidance. However it presents itself, there are some very useful cognitive behavioural techniques that may be used to help the child think in a different way about their problems.

Guided Parent Delivered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (GPD-CBT) is a new evidence based service designed to support parents struggling to get help with their child’s anxiety. The programme which is being offered through the charity, Anxiety UK, has been designed to help increase parents’ confidence and empower them to support their child.

The positive impact that a parent can have in helping their child to overcome their problems should not be underestimated. This is emphasised throughout the sessions. There are a number of advantages to working solely with parents or guardians instead of with the child, not least the fact that parents are considered to be the experts on their own children.

CBT has been extensively researched.
It is a solution focused time limited form of treatment and one which is most often recommended by the NHS to patients needing support for a number of mental health problems.

The therapist registered with Anxiety UK to deliver these sessions, will work collaboratively with parents, providing them with strategies they can use at home to help their child, between the age of seven and 12, overcome anxiety.

Four one hour sessions are conducted with the parents face-to-face, by phone or web cam and two 15 minute sessions take place over the phone or via web cam. The support package includes a copy of ‘Helping your Child with Fears and Worries: A self-help guide for parents’ by Professor Cathy Cresswell and Lucy Willetts.

Annabel Marriott is registered as an Anxiety UK GPD CBT practitioner.
For further information or to arrange an informal chat about Guided Parent Delivered CBT, Toolkit for Anxiety workshops or self-help groups, please email Annabel at: annabel@toolkitforanxiety.com
www.toolkitforanxiety.com

mum's mental health

It’s OK, not to be OK

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Safety, Uncategorized

Mental health in pregnancy, birth and beyond

Eight months into being a mother, it hit me. Depression, together with its best friend, anxiety, came for an unplanned visit and as I write this months later, things are still very difficult, with the depression and the anxiety coming and going as they please, but I’m OK. I’m OK, not to be OK.

The most beautiful soul I have ever met, graced my husband and I with his presence in May of 2018 and what an amazing first year it has been. The cuddles; the late night/crack of dawn feeds; minimal sleep; bath time; nappy changes; weaning; playtime; teething; nappy changes; learning to crawl, walk and speak – and did I mention nappy changes?

How many blessings to have in one year. I have to pinch myself sometimes to check this isn’t just a wonderful dream. It is in fact reality, my reality, that this little boy is my baby boy and my absolute life’s purpose. How lucky am I? This most magical first year of being a mother, as amazing as it has been, has also brought many mental health challenges my way. I am not only learning to be a mother, but I am now also learning to accept and love the new me.

For seven out of my nine months of pregnancy, I was frankly scared of everything and anything going wrong. I made a decision that for my last two months of pregnancy, to work on just trying to worry less and enjoy this pregnant chapter of my life. This was much easier said than done but I really did have an amazing last two months of pregnancy where instead of fearing for this baby and what ‘could go wrong’, I looked forward to his daily kicks and hiccups and enjoyed this beautiful baby growing inside of me. I didn’t unfortunately wave a magic wand, I had to work very hard on ‘me’. I spoke openly about my fears, hopes and dreams; I attended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT); I took early maternity leave to focus on me and my baby, as well as attending the mental health midwifery clinic attached to my local hospital. This internal work I was doing, together with the support of my incredible husband, family and friends, all helped me get to where I wanted and where I needed to be, in the preparation for my little man’s arrival.

I am a big believer in therapy and I hope that anyone struggling with poor mental health, gets help. It can be free, you can self-refer, you can choose to do it face-to-face, over the phone or online. So, if you are needing some help or just a nudge in the right direction, or know someone who is struggling, please speak up. You can reach out to your GP for a list of local therapies available or simply go online to see which type of therapy is right for you, whether it be CBT, counselling or other types of therapy. For employers, please check out Mental Health First Aid England, where they are helping drive mental health awareness in the workplace.

After being flagged as ‘high risk’ for mental health during my pregnancy, I thought I was going to experience baby blues (which can come in around day three when there is a hormone shift) but I didn’t, no baby blues. I thought I was going to experience postnatal depression but I didn’t. I don’t think. What did occur was I was back at work in January of 2019 and it happened. Depression. I found myself missing my baby so much whilst at work and felt like I was completely missing out on everything. My husband was daddy day care at the time and what a great job he was doing. This wasn’t a case of my baby not being well looked after, I was experiencing a sort of separation anxiety from my baby boy. But I just had to keep working long days and ‘deal with it’.

Whilst still struggling months later, I finally quit my job in order to enjoy time with my little man but also to work on myself. Self-love, self-care and mental health improvements, including daily meditation, yoga and therapy. Some days are good, others bad, others really bad – but I remain honest with myself and others. It really is OK, not to be OK. You are not a failure or ‘damaged goods’ which is how I would often label myself. You are real, showing your true colours and just going through a difficult time. You are exactly who you are meant to be for now and that is OK. All I know is that we have to truly accept ourselves and support others in whatever way we can. We need to remain an open and honest society, and most importantly please, be kind to one another.

At TheBabyChapter, we are dedicated to improving the quality of antenatal classes, ensuring soon-to-be parents are well supported and know all the information needed to make the right decision for you and your baby, in this new chapter, TheBabyChapter
www.thebabychapter.co.uk

Why imagination is the most valuable type of thinking

By | children's health, Education, Health, Mental health
by Neel Burton
psychiatrist and author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking

Einstein held that imagination is more important than knowledge: “I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Until very recently, most human societies did not mark a strict divide between imagination and belief, or fiction and reality, with each one informing and enriching the other. In fact, it could be argued that, in many important respects, the fiction primed over the reality – and even that this has been, and no doubt still is, one of the hallmarks of homo sapiens.

The uses of imagination are many, more than I can enumerate. Most children begin to develop pretend play at around fifteen months of age. What are children doing when they pretend play? And why are they so absorbed in works of imagination? When I was seven years old, I would devour book after book and plead with my parents for those not already in the bookcase. By playing out scenarios and extending themselves beyond their limited experience, children seek to make sense of the world and find

their place within it. This meaning-making is full of emotion – joy, excitement, awe – which finds an echo in every subsequent act of creation.

Whenever we look at an object such as the Mona Lisa, we see much more than just the frame and the brushstrokes. In fact, we barely see the brushstrokes at all. In imagination as in our dreams, we ascribe form, pattern, and significance to things, and then reflect them back onto those things. Without this work of interpreting and assimilating, the world would be no more than an endless stream of sense impressions, as it might sometimes seem to those who lack imagination, with no hope of escape or reprieve. More than that, by imagination we are able to complete the world, or our world, by conjuring up the missing parts, and even to inhabit entirely other worlds such as Middle-earth or the Seven Kingdoms.

If imagination lets us feel at home in the world, it also enables us to get things done in the world. Science advances by hypothesis, which is a function of imagination, and philosophy makes frequent use of thought experiments such as the brain in the vat, the trolley problem, and Plato’s Republic. More than that, imagination enables us to form associations and connections, and thereby to apply our knowledge to real life situations. It opens up alternatives and possibilities and guides our decision-making by playing them out in our mind. So many of our failures are in fact failures of the imagination.

Imagination is the highest form of thought, and almost divine in its reach. With enough imagination, we could identify and solve all of our problems. With enough imagination, we would never have to work again – or, at least, not for money. With enough imagination, we could win over, or defeat, anyone we wanted to. But our imagination is so poor that we haven’t even imagined what it would be like to have that much imagination.

I’m lucky to have received a decent education, but one thing it certainly didn’t do for me is cultivate my imagination. In fact, medical school in particular did everything it could to destroy it. In recent years, I’ve been trying to recover the bright and vivid imagination that I left behind in primary school. For that, I’ve been doing just three things, all of them very simple – or, at least, very simple to explain:
• Being more aware of the importance of imagination.
• Making time for sleep and idleness.
• Taking inspiration from the natural world.

Our schools and universities privilege knowing over thinking, and equate thinking with reasoning, and reasoning with logic. This has done, and continues to do, untold harm. Instead of digging ourselves in deeper, we need to make more time and space for thinking. And we need to rehabilitate alternative forms of cognition, such as emotion and imagination, that can support, supplement, or supplant reason and return
us to wholeness.

Neel Burton is a leading psychiatrist and author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking priced £12.99.
To find out more visit www.neelburton.com

The gender clutter gap

By | Education, Health, Mental health

In a recent survey to understand the effects of clutter on mental health, it was found that women are more affected by clutter in the home with four in five (79%) admitting that clutter makes them feel stressed, compared to just 59% of men.
It’s no surprise that we are feeling the effects of clutter building up at home with almost three-quarters (74%) wishing they had more storage space at home. Furthermore, over two-thirds (69%) of respondents agreed they could spend less time tidying their homes if they had a declutter – considering the 20% differentiation between stress levels, some might say that cleaning and tidying is still seen, by many, as ‘women’s work’.

However, we are taking action with our clutter, but only usually brought on by significant changes in life, with the main reasons people would choose to have a declutter being moving house (60%), decorating (54%) and downsizing (44%). Around a third said they would consider a declutter to relieve stress (37%) and improve their mental health (31%).

Though the KonMari Method of decluttering, created by Marie Kondo, has increased in popularity, Caboodle’s survey shows that people are still reluctant to declutter – ironically because of what they might throw away.

Though we know that clutter often causes us stress, more than half are not willing to declutter as they worry they might throw away something that they would need again (50%) or that they’d get rid of something that they have an emotional attachment to (55%).

Commenting on the emotional decluttering effects of a clear-out, Leone Ashby from Cluttercation, one of Caboodle’s decluttering experts, said: “Decluttering is a cathartic experience and brings peace and zen into your home. The initial fantastic feeling when you see your treasured room, wardrobe or pantry transformed is euphoric.
However, there is an art to decluttering that ensures this feeling prolongs without any regret for items you could have used in the future or you had great attachment to but may not have a need for today”.

Introducing the ‘Caboodle’ Method
– keep, save, throw
Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering encourages us to “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy”.

The Caboodle Method is all about how and, if so, when items bring a benefit to you and your life.

There are three key steps:
Keep items that you need and use now, consider if you have an emotional attachment to them, do they inspire you or do they bring a benefit to your life right now?

Save items that you cherish, inspire you and bring a benefit to your life but you don’t need right now by storing in a safe and organised place outside the home making more space!

Throw away (or donate to charity) items that you haven’t used or considered for six months and have no emotional attachment to.

Why save?
It avoids that feeling of regret and is a more sustainable option. Saving these items outside the home will save on space but the items are at your fingertips whenever you need them again.

Examples of items include:
• Winter wardrobe in the summer and vice versa.
• Children’s toys and clothing – for your next child/a friend.
• Holiday items you only use once a year.

Top tips for decluttering:
1. Start decluttering one room at a time, starting in one corner so to not overwhelm you, take items and sort them into the three categories keep, save and throw. Bonus tip: Always leave the room and take a short
break before you finally make your decisions.
2. Always use big crates or bin bags to sort items into piles – it makes the clean up so much easier.
3. Have cleaning products to hand as you declutter so you can clean as you go.
4. Never feel regret. If you can’t disassociate yourself from treasured possessions that you just can’t use at the moment then ‘save’ them by using a storage solution that will keep everything organised.
5. Always check with other members of your family on the key items you are ‘throwing’, to make sure everyone is happy and no one else wants the items.

Caboodle storage is all arranged online at and they will deliver free boxes, then collect and protect your belongings from as little as £1.40 per week.