It can be hard to find your brave when it feels like the world is against you – but you have a right to good mental health, and the law in Wales supports this.
The classroom erupts into laughter, even the teacher can’t fully supress a grin.
Your own smile evaporates. You are already physically separated from many of the rest of the class, sitting on a table on your own, but now you feel even more singled out and highlighted as ‘different’. All you said was that you were a people person, but the class – and teacher – mistakes your increasing anxiety as being unfriendly, and they laugh at you as a result
You have never felt so isolated or humiliated.
You start finding ways to skip that class, and often end up in the library working alone. Your anxiety starts to spill over to other classes, you start to fall behind with school work. There are problems developing at home, and you feel like you’re losing control. For the first time in your life, you begin to look at the future with dread. The bullying becomes more difficult to shake off and haunts you for longer.
You start to have negative thoughts about yourself.
You don’t feel you can speak to anyone. Who would understand? Who would care? Would they just laugh at you and tell you to get over it? What was the point?
When the truth comes out, teachers shout at you. It feel as though your fears have been confirmed. One of them does pick up on something that you said and sits down with you to ask how you’re doing. He says that no one expected this sort of behaviour from you, so he just wanted to understand what was going on. You finally start talking about many things and before you know it, you’re in tears, telling him about a lot of what is going on in your life, your fears and worries.
Things begin to change.
Lots of young people experience something similar or far worse at school.
It is estimated that in an average size classroom, three children will be struggling with their mental health, and nearly three in four fear the reaction of friends when they talk about mental health. Although mental health is increasingly talked about more openly, and more are being encouraged to seek out the help they need, when they need it, there is still a stigma.
Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC) says that you have the right to the best possible health along with all children. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You should have good quality healthcare, and the information and support you need to make decisions about your physical and mental health and well-being.
The Welsh Government has to pay due regard to the UNCRC when they make decisions that affect children and young people, and think about the effect any decision may have on children’s rights.
The Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 sets out the provision of mental health services and support in Wales, and the role of various public bodies (health boards, local authorities etc.) in the delivery of these services.
The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2014 is a law that sets out seven ‘well-being goals’, including a Healthier Wales. As part of this, Wales has to show how it is supporting children’s mental health.
Schools are recognised as playing a vital role in promoting emotional well-being and good mental health. Currently the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 says that local authorities have to make sure there are independent counselling services for pupils, while the new curriculum, which will be phased in starting 2022, will include a ‘health and well-being’ area of learning and experience.
If you’re dealing with a mental health problem, you’re not alone. Support is available, and you have a right to it. Do what, in the past, others have been afraid to do. Speak to someone and get the help you need and deserve.
Children’s Mental Health Week, set up by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, shines a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. This year, Children’s Mental Health Week will be on the week 3rd – 9th February, and the theme is Find your Brave.
For more information, check out https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/