Two-thirds of children don’t talk to parents about mental health

More and more young people are receiving mental health treatment, and yet many do not open up about their experiences to parents

Two-thirds of children don’t talk to parents about mental health

Between April and October 2021, more than 400,000 children in England needed specialist mental health treatment – a figure that has increased by 77% as compared to the same period in 2019. At the same time, new research released by Comic Relief for Red Nose Day has found that almost two thirds (64%) of children in the UK ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ speak to their parents about their mental health.

The poll, commissioned last month to shine a light on the importance of having conversations at home, also found that many parents (28%) shared that they didn’t know how to start a conversation about mental health with their child, with a further 34% admitting that they wouldn’t then know what to do, or where to turn to for advice, if their child was struggling.

For many young adults, their teenage years can be some of the most challenging. Add in the emotional toll of current world events, and it’s easy to see why many young people are struggling.

“Talking with our children about mental health is vitally important. We are experiencing shocking, deeply worrying, daily coverage of the war on Ukraine,” says Samir Patel, chief executive of Comic Relief. “Parents need to be aware that their children may not be sharing the huge mental impact this is having on them. We know additional issues like the fall-out of the pandemic and families struggling with rising cost of living continue to affect the mental well-being of children and adults alike.

In 2021, ‘anxiety’ was named Oxford Children’s Word of the Year, and yet 33% of parents say they would struggle to explain the meaning of ‘anxiety’, and a further 26% admit that they would find it hard to identify at least two signs of anxiety in their child.

Learning about mental health

Talking about mental health can be challenging, especially if you are not familiar with the terms. But taking some time to read up on the topic could make all the difference, and there are many free resources out there that break topics down into easily digestible explainers. Visit our ‘where to get help’ page, and the following helpful articles, for more:

  • How to talk to kids about mental health
  • How to help kids with anxiety
  • 50 affirmations to help kids build confidence
  • 5 ways to help kids with stress
  • 5 children’s mental health picture books
  • How to speak to children about eating disorders
  • 5 supportive reads for bereaved children

Speaking about her own experience, presenter Charlene White said: “Like all parents, you want to be able to give your children the love and support they need, whilst letting them know that you’re always there to listen and help, which can be really hard.

“We’ve always tried to be very open with them and encourage them to share how they’re feeling. But having kids of different ages, you soon realise there are different ways to have those conversations, whether it’s during playtime, dinnertime, storytime or during the school run. Naturally, there’s been so many times we’ve worried whether we’re saying or doing the right thing because it isn’t always easy. But ultimately, I’d like to think it’s brought us closer as a family.”

For more than 30 years, Comic Relief has been supporting children and young people’s mental health, and currently supports 45 organisations in the UK and across the world. This year, donations will also help to fund organisations providing essential support – including mental health support – for people in Ukraine affected by the terrifying conflict and the mass displacement of people in many parts of the world.

To donate and to get involved, visit comicrelief.com/rednoseday

Need support? Reaching out to a professional using counselling-directory.org.uk