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Mental Health and Wellbeing

What's mental health?

We all have mental health. Your mental health affects how you feel, think and act. It refers to your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Your mental health can change and fluctuate on a daily basis and over time, and can be affected by a range of factors.

It’s important to look after your mental health, as you would look after your physical health.  Your state of wellbeing affects how you cope with stress, relate to others, make choices, and play a part in your family, community, workplace and among your friends.

Good mental health among children

When children have good levels of wellbeing it helps them to:

  • learn and explore the world
  • feel, express and manage positive and negative emotions
  • form and maintain good relationships with others
  • cope with, and manage, change, setbacks and uncertainty
  • develop and thrive.

When children look after their mental health and develop their coping skills it can help them to boost their resilience, self-esteem and confidence. It can also help them learn to manage their emotions, feel calm, and engage positively with their education - which can, in turn, improve their academic attainment.

What affects children and young people’s mental health?

A child’s mental health will be influenced by many things over time and, because they all have different personalities, they will react and cope with challenging situations in different ways.

Risk factors Protective factors

Children present with and will be exposed to a range of factors in their homes and communities that can affect their mental health – this is what we call “risk factors”.  Some children experience multiple risks, which means their mental health is more likely to be affected.

These risks come in many forms and may be the result of:

  • the child’s individual characteristics (e.g. their temperament, communication difficulties, learning disability, etc.)
  • being exposed to traumatic experiences (e.g. abuse, domestic violence, bullying etc.)
  • changes in relationships within families or friends (e.g. divorce, separation, death and loss etc.)
  • broader society (e.g. discrimination and poverty etc.).


However, not all children who are exposed to risks will develop mental health difficulties.

There are lots of things that schools and settings can do to help “protect” and support pupils so that they can cope better with any challenges that they may face.


These include important social and emotional skills to help them cope, such as being more resilient, knowing how to manage their emotions, and feel confident.


Schools also need to make sure that they reduce school-based risk factors and put in place support that helps pupils to feel that they belong and have positive relationships with their teachers and school staff, as well as other pupils.  

How many children and young people have a mental health condition?

The rate of poor mental health in children differs across the UK. Research for England suggests that one in 10 primary school children has an identifiable mental health condition, which rises to one in seven secondary school students. In both primary and secondary schools, this is equivalent to three children in every class.

The research shows that children are more likely to experience a mental health condition as they get older. The figure rises to one in six 17 to 19-year-olds who have a mental health condition. 

Source: www.mentallyhealthyschools.org.uk 

Anna Freud - National Centre for Children and Families

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