Topics for this month:
World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2021
This year’s World Mental Health Day, on the 10th October comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past months have brought many challenges: for health-care workers providing care in very difficult circumstances, for those adapting to working or learning from home, with little contact with family and friends and the outside world, anxious about the future; and for workers whose livelihoods are threatened, for the vast number of people caught in poverty or in fragile humanitarian settings with extremely limited protection from COVID-19; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. And this is to say nothing of managing the grief of losing a loved one, sometimes without being able to say goodbye.
Given past experience of emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years. Investment in mental health programmes at the national and international levels, which have already suffered from years of chronic underfunding, is now more important than it has ever been.
This is why the goal of this year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is increased investment in mental health. As mental health is one of the most neglected areas of public health. Close to 1 billion people are living with a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year and one person worldwide dies every 40 seconds by suicide. And now, billions of people around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a further impact on people’s mental health.
An opportunity to commit
The World Mental Health Day campaign will offer opportunities, primarily online given the continuing pandemic, for all of us to do something life-affirming: as individuals, to take concrete actions in support of our own mental health, and to support friends and family who are struggling; as employers, to take steps towards putting in place employee wellness programmes; as governments, to commit to establishing or scaling-up mental health services; and to what more can and must be done to make mental health care a reality for everyone. On the 10th October, the World Health Organization will for the first time ever, host a global online advocacy event on mental health.
During the event, which will be streamed on WHO’s social media channels, viewers will be able to:
- learn how WHO, together with partners help improve the mental health of people in countries throughout the world.
- hear from national and international leaders about why they are making mental health a priority.
- hear first-hand why internationally renowned artists have become mental health advocates and listen to their advice for those who are struggling; and
- listen to critically acclaimed musicians perform some of their most popular music.
For more information and to get involved please visit
What is mental health?
We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. Sometimes we feel well, and sometimes we don’t. Mental health is complicated because it’s about how we think, feel and act, and this is always changing.
When our mental health is good, we enjoy being around other people and we feel able to take on challenges and new experiences. But when our mental health is not so good, we can find it much harder to cope.
Remember, if you’re struggling with how you think, feel or act, you are not alone, and things can get better. You deserve all the help and support you need to feel confident and comfortable being yourself so that you can enjoy life.
What is a mental health problem?
We all have good days and bad days, but when negative thoughts and feelings start to affect your daily life and stop you doing the things you enjoy, or your ability to feel ok, this means you probably need some support with your mental health.
For example, nearly everyone gets anxious before an exam, a job interview or a first date. But if we feel anxious all the time, constantly worrying that the worst could happen, and this stops us sleeping well or meeting up with friends, we might benefit from some help.
What causes mental health problems?
There are lots of reasons why we might start struggling with our mental health. These can include:
- difficult things going on in your life
- life experiences, such as trauma, violence or abuse
- physical health problems
- pressure at school, work, or about money
- difficult relationships with partners, family or friends
- family history of mental health problems
Often it isn’t just one of these things and sometimes there is no obvious cause. Whatever the reasons you might be struggling it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault and that things can get better.
Life affects us all differently. No one is the same. That’s why the right mental health support will look different to different people. What works for one person might be not work the same for you, and that’s ok
How do I know when to get help with my mental health?
Most of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives, just like we all get sick once in a while. If you notice a negative change in how you’re feeling, or you find yourself doing things that worry you, speak to someone you trust.
Trust your instincts – you know if something is up. Don’t wait for things to get really bad before reaching out. The earlier you get help, the more likely it is that you can stop your problem getting worse
Here are some signs to look out for:
- feeling hopeless – struggling to see the positives in life, or wishing you didn’t exist
- getting into lots of arguments or fights
- feeling sad all the time
- feeling angry all the time
- feeling anxious all the time
- numbness – not feeling any emotions at all
- extreme highs and lows, or mood swings
- feeling worthless
- changes to your eating patterns – starving yourself, over-eating, making yourself sick
- hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
- hurting yourself on purpose
- keeping away from friends and family
- relying heavily on alcohol, drugs or sex
- obsessive behaviour or thoughts – feeling there is something you have to do/think about all the time or something bad will happen
- experiencing nightmares, flashbacks or upsetting thoughts
- obsessing about how you look
- constant unwanted thoughts
If you recognise any of these signs, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary, or not ‘normal’ for you, then it is important to reach out for help. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have a mental health problem, but it’s likely that some support will help you on your journey to feeling your best.
For more information please visit: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/coping-with-life/what-is-mental-health/
How to speak to your GP about mental health
It can be really scary talking to your doctor about mental health for the first time, but there’s no need to be scared – it’s their job to help.
Your GP can help you out with things like:
- letting you know what support is available to you through the NHS or private services
- suggesting different types of treatment like counselling and therapy, or medication
- offering regular check-ups to see how you’re doing
- finding local support groups for your mental health
- explaining what the next steps are in getting you support
Visit the following link for guidance on: preparing for your appointment with your GP; what to do if you’re not happy with the result of your appointment; information on whether your doctor will tell your parents/carers what you tell them; questions to ask your GP; and your rights and accessibility.
Mental health support – Helplines and services
- Text YM to 85258
- Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.
- All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.
- Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.
- Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.
- Opening times: 24/7
- Website: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/youngminds-textline/
- Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.
- Email support available via their online contact form.
- Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.
- Free short-term counselling service available.
- Opening times: 4pm – 11pm, seven days a week
- Tel: 0808 808 4994
- Website: https://www.themix.org.uk/
- If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
- Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.
- Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
- Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
- Opening times: 9am – midnight, 365 days a year
- Tel: 0800 11 11
- Website: https://www.childline.org.uk/
- Whatever you’re going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.
- Opening times: 24/7
- Tel: 116123
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.samaritans.org/
Social media and mental health
Being connected is a big part of our lives. But if you’re seeing stuff online which makes you feel angry, sad, worried, stressed, or annoyed, this can build up and start having a negative impact on your life.
For example, you might start worrying more about how you look or what you’re missing out on.
If you ever feel overwhelmed by the online world, unable to switch off, or find it difficult to cope, you’re not alone. We all struggle to keep our online world positive sometimes.
Top tech tips and advice from an O2 Guru
Managing your time
Apps like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube make it easy to track your time online, whether you’re on iOS or Android.
- For Facebook, go to More > Settings and privacy > Your time on Facebook.
- For Instagram, go to Your account > More > Settings and your activity.
You can set daily reminders telling you how long you’ve been using an app. On Facebook for example, go to Your time on Facebook > Set daily reminder. Then set your ideal daily usage.
Apps like ‘Hold’ are handy, especially if you’re trying to focus on studying. Hold rewards you for putting your phone down. You get ‘pocket points’ which can be exchanged for coffee vouchers and cinema tickets.
There are many other apps out there that help you stay off your phone, but don’t reward you, like ‘Moment’, ‘Stay Focused’ and ‘OFFTIME’.
Apps can help you relax
Meditation apps like ‘Calm’ have stories that can help you get to sleep, as well as daily breathing exercises that help you relax. Calm even has masterclasses taught by world-renowned experts.
Sleep affects your mood
If you’d like to switch off the blue light your screen emits at night, some phones have night mode.
- Go to Settings > Control Centre > Night Shift
- Older iPhones have shortcuts to Night Shift if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The shortcut on newer iPhones appears if you drag down from the top right of the screen.
- Android devices often have an ‘eye comfort’ mode. This setting can be found by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen and tapping ‘eye comfort’. If you press and hold this option, you’ll also find a convenient schedule option to save you more work.
- When you need to unwind, you may find that something simple like trying an audiobook rather than reading on your phone may help. Apps like Audible come with a 30-day free trial.
For more information please visit: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/coping-with-life/social-media-and-mental-health/
Understanding young minds – Free course
Virtual College offer free courses, one of which is ‘Understanding Young Minds’ – ‘Talking to your Children about Emotional Resilience and Self-Harm’. The course handles the subject of teenage self-harm and parental ways to support your children, in a sensitive and informational way.
Virtual College have worked in partnership with SelfharmUK to create a free online course designed to help parents talk about the issue of self-harm with their children.
Thousands of children and young people in the UK are thought to be impacted by self-harm each year. Spotting the signs can be difficult, and approaching the subject with your children can be an uncomfortable experience.
This online course, ‘Talking to your children about emotional resilience and self-harm’, has been designed to provide you with a basic awareness of the subject to help you approach your children with confidence about the issue.
Please note, at the time when this bulletin was issued, the above course was free of charge on the VC website.
Netflix age ratings
Netflix is hugely popular across all ages, but there have been concerns in relation to age ratings and the type of content that is recommended to viewers. Like many other services, Netflix uses algorithms to determine what you might like to watch based on viewing history, what you have liked etc.
Since last year, Netflix has been working with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and 100% of the content on Netflix is now age-rated to BBFC classification standards. It is the first UK streaming service to accomplish this.
For more information on how to set up a child account and choose maturity rating, please visit: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/264
Age appropriate design code
The Age Appropriate Design Code (sometimes referred to as The Children’s Code) is a new code of practice that sets out standards of age-appropriate design for “information society services” that are likely to be accessed by children. In other words, it’s new requirements for any companies that offer services online that are likely to be accessed by children.
The Code itself contains 15 standards that any online services must adhere to and covers areas such as privacy, transparency, and data sharing. You can find the full list of standards below. It first came into force in September 2020, but companies were given a 12-month transition period to comply, which ended on 2nd September 2021.
Why Has the Code Been Created?
From playing games on parents’ phones and watching cartoons on YouTube, to getting their own devices and joining social media, children and young people are using the online world every day. However, the internet wasn’t created with safeguarding children in mind and nor were any previous rules and regulations that the companies who operate online must follow. This is especially important now due to personal data protection.
As adults, we hopefully have more understanding of what we’re agreeing to online. For example, we might
understand what we’re signing up to when we agree to data usage pop-ups, whilst children might not. Or when we allow an app to use geolocation, we understand the risks behind location sharing, where children may just see the novelty in sharing this information.
These new standards are about making the digital space where children learn, play and socialise a safer place to be.
The Code comes from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who are the UK’s independent body that upholds information rights. They are responsible for legislation such as the Data Protection Act, GDPR, and Freedom of Information Act. This new code comes under their remit due to its relevancy to information rights, data protection and privacy of electronic communications.
The code applies to companies that fall under the bracket of information society services. Simply put, this is any business that provides a service online in exchange for money. Examples of these types of services are apps, search engines, social media platforms and online games. This means apps and websites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google will all have to adhere to the new standards. Even if the service isn’t necessarily aimed at children, the code must be implemented if it can be accessed by children under 18.
What Changes Will I See?
There have been changes across thousands of apps and websites throughout the last 12 months, some more noticeable than others. Changes will have included:
- Checking the age of the people who visit the website, download an app, or play the game.
- Switching off geolocation services by default for users under 18.
- Prohibiting nudge techniques to encourage children to enter more personal data.
- Providing the highest level of privacy by default.
- Greater efforts to protect the privacy and security of children online.
For more information visit: https://ineqe.com/2021/09/16/age-appropriate-design/
Online safety booklet
Attached with this bulletin is a guide to parental controls, produced by Knowsley CLCs. The guide will help to set up parental controls to provide your child with a safer online environment. Parental controls can help to protect your child from seeing something that they shouldn’t – although it is important to emphasise that no system is effective all of the time so it is important to engage with your child and talk to them about their online life regularly.
The content includes:
- Operating Systems
- Home Internet
- Social Media
- Search Engines
- Mobile Devices
- Smart Devices
- Further Advice