An expert perspective on your family’s mental health and wellbeing
Why rethinking mental health is important for our kid’s health and wellbeing
Mental health is a hot topic at the moment and all of the commentary seems to be more or less saying the same thing – it’s more prevalent than we think and people are applauded for speaking up about it.
If we’re trying to raise children to be both mentally healthy themselves – and supportive, accepting and helpful to those who are suffering mental illness – isn’t it about time we had a bit of a rethink?
I know the medical model of emotional wellbeing and mental health is crude. But the brain is a part of our physical body and reconsidering mental health using the same approach as we do to physical health may just help break the stigma and allow us to focus on preventing the causes and treating the symptoms.
Most of us are healthy, most of the time. But we all get colds, maybe flu occasionally, feel under the weather or get an upset stomach. Sometimes we know where we caught something from – an infected person, getting wet and cold in the rain, other times we don’t.
If our respiratory or gastric systems can suffer a bit of a malfunction without stigma, why can’t our nervous system?
What does this mean for modern families?
First, parents need to look after themselves.
Their physical and mental wellbeing is vitally important to their children, not just because young children need parents to be able to respond to their needs, but also because children are likely to copy their parent’s approach to their health.
So if parents don’t look after themselves or take measures to protect their health and recover when their health is compromised, their children are unlikely to look after themselves properly either.
It’s not rocket science and similar messages around getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and being active and social are all good pieces of advice for both physical and mental health.
But there are things such as nurturing relationships, feeling in control of your life, belonging, and having something to hope for that also contribute to mental health.
These things have, in western society, been devalued and seen as soft.
However if they are what is needed to help keep the most valuable organ in our bodies in shape, we should be turning this around and giving activities that promote mental health and wellbeing to the same level of importance as going to the gym, or choosing organic food.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer