Summary of report content
Healthwatch County Durham wanted to hear from children and young people about mental health. Over the course of 2021 Healthwatch County Durham engaged with over 900 children and young people, with a wide range of activities and focus groups, online, face-to-face in social settings and ni classrooms. The approach was to look at a grass roots level: what do children and young people understand about mental health, what are their self-care and, if they could have just one thing to better support their mental health wand wellbeing, what would that be?
The research found that children and young people had a clear understanding of what mental health is. Their main worries are things such as financial worries, not having enough food to eat and the death of a loved one. Older children were more concerned about body image, schoolwork and bullying.
Most young people stated that parents and teachers were their most trusted adults, with older children also likely to confide in a friend or sibling. Common self-help techniques used by children and young people are physical contact such as cuddles and affection, particularly with each other and pets, seeing friends and family, talking, exercise and gaming.
Teachers and group leaders all expressed concerns over the lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Children’s resilience is waning, particular in those who have previously experience poor mental health and many children are now dealing with the aftermath of Covid at home, either through the loss of a loved one, domestic violence and financial hardship. The youngest children were noted to have much higher emotional needs and a lack of social skills compared to children in other intakes.
The main barrier to better and consistent mental health support in schools and colleges is funding. Currently the costs of intervention programmes and additional support is largely from existing budgets meaning that spending is reduced elsewhere, and that provision is inconsistent between settings.