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World Mental Health Day 2023

This year World Mental Health Day is on 10 October and it’s theme is mental health as a human right. Anna Freud’s work to support the mental health and wellbeing of families, children and young people is highlighted on our website and on TV this week.

One of the simplest and easiest ways to improve a child or young person’s wellbeing is to encourage them to talk about their experiences. This is the first step on a journey towards mental health as a universal human right.

The relationship a child has with others – friends, family, teachers, healthcare professionals – is crucial to building the best possible mental resilience and wellbeing.

Anna Freud’s mission is to build the mental health and wellbeing of the next generation and that’s one of the many reasons we introduced the empowering Lundy model of participation. Mental health as a universal human right is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day and puts the focus on how we implement a child-rights model of participation within our charity.

The Lundy model can help put younger individuals in the driving seat to influence key decisions around their lives.

Professor Peter Fonagy OBE, Chief Executive of Anna Freud said:

“World Mental Health Day is a good time to remember that positive mental health and wellbeing for all people starts with conversations with family and friends and can move on to professional organisations.

“Active listening is a key skill. Sometimes, all that is needed is for parents and carers to just be there and understand. The human right is to a sense of feeling supported to become an independent and ultimately self-sufficient person.

“Good mental health and wellbeing is a right we all want to achieve and through the Lundy model there can be an increase in active participation and listening from parents, carers, children and young people.”

Anna Freud’s Participation team has published a blog article around the use of the Lundy model at the mental health and wellbeing charity. There are also reflections from then Applied Research and Evaluation division on how the Lundy model can be applied to drive successful research.

Bez Martin, head of participation at Anna Freud said:

“The Lundy framework for participation is comprised of the following four domains: space, voice, influence and audience. Parents, carers, children and young people need to have agency in all four of these domains to make an impact on a decision.

“We recognise that children, young people, parents and carers have a right to participate and this approach ensures that their views are not merely heard but acted upon, thereby facilitating meaningful improvements in services provided by Anna Freud.”

Education sector

Our schools are adopting new ways of working by introducing the role of Senior Mental Health leads for teachers. Online training modules for this role are available through the Anna Freud website.

These toolkits consists of several resources to help improve pupils’ understanding of mental health and wellbeing, and to get them talking about the subject on World Mental Health Day.

Teachers can also access an online a toolkit from Anna Freud called ‘Let’s talk about anxiety’, Anna Freud’s new animation and teacher toolkit. The toolkit has been co-created by students and brings together Anna Freud’s vision for empowering children and young people with the knowledge, confidence and skills to manage their mental wellbeing, as well as those who impact on their lives - from parents to policy makers, early years workers to teachers, mental health professionals to community-based practitioners.

Professor Peter Fonagy OBE, Chief Executive of Anna Freud added:

“A child’s ability to regulate emotions effectively is an essential skill, not just for academic success, but also for maintaining successful relationships with friends and family, and for mental health. 

“Children, and to a lesser extent adolescents, do not always have the neurobiological and cognitive capacities necessary to regulate their emotions on their own. They depend on external resources to help them. 

“Key to the development of emotion regulation is children’s observations of their own parents, emotion-related parenting practices, and the emotional climate of the family. Making sure children and young people have the tools to influence and actively participate in making decisions can be extremely empowering for the individual involved.”

World Mental Health Day provides a time for reflection on how society needs to change if we are to ensure the right to mental health and wellbeing for all. For Anna Freud this is not only about developing resources to support families and practitioners but also encouraging open discussions about difficult subjects with children and young people, such as the cost of living crisis.

Dr Sheila Redfern, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Anna Freud said:

“In talking about the cost of living crisis with your child, it’s important to strike a balance between not making them overly anxious and not sugar-coating realistic news.  Young people are already more than aware of the situation and will have lots of sources of information, from phone APPs to playground conversations.  Our children and young people are often more resilient than parents or carers realise, and want you to be honest.”

“Being honest about a situation can be reassuring to a child – especially when you empathise and share their feelings.  Say something like, ‘actually, it’s scary, isn’t it - when we don’t know what’s going to happen? I’m not certain either, but we’re not on our own.’

“Additionally, parents and carers need to model to their children they can manage their own worries by talking to friends and adult family members, and their children aren’t responsible for their parents.  It helps for parents to model calm and normality around children as much as possible. When they see an adult coping normally, it’s highly likely they will feel much more able to manage their own worries.”

Chair of Anna Freud trustees, Michael Samuel MBE has written on climate anxiety for World Mental Health Day and it has been published online here in Social Care Today.

And Professor Peter Fonagy shares his thoughts on working with the Patron of Anna Freud in an interview for Hello! Magazine

Keep an eye on the Anna Freud news pages and social media feeds to find out more, including the latest research on the link between social connection and good mental health. Find out more about Mentally Healthy Schools and our wider Closing the Gap mission.