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Counsellors Corner: Mental Health Awareness

With Mental Health Awareness Day this week, we take an opportunity to reflect upon our most recent workshop and announce next  month’s workshop at the High School.

Reflection: Social Media and Your Teen

A couple of weeks ago over 40 parents attended our Social Media Workshop and we are very pleased with the response. There are many benefits to social media for young people such as social connections, emotional support, development of self-identity and awareness to current events.  However, the fact that many parents came may be a sign that parents have concerns about their teens using social media.

At the workshop we shared the results of a survey we gave high school students as we wanted to know what apps they use and what they think the advantages and risks of using these sites may be.  We know now that the most used apps are Instagram, Line, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Facebook.

A main concern is that many students are unaware of how much time they spend on social media sites.  Besides the amount of time, they brought up other concerns such as getting hacked, being misunderstood or bullied, witnessing harassment and having rumours spread. Also they tend to link the number of likes on their posts to popularity which may affect their self-esteem.

We had a discussion about what parents can do.  Obviously every family will have different opinions and values, so it is difficult to come up with a cookie cutter answer.  What we suggest is that parents have open communication with their teens so that they feel safe to talk to them.  This is done by being available, actively listening and having empathy rather than giving advice or panicking. Additionally it is very important for parents to have guidelines as to their own use of social media and that of their teens.  Even though it may not always look like it, teens observe their parents, so we adults need to monitor our own behaviours. Along with setting guidelines teens need regular conversations and reminders about why they need to be cautious, what is appropriate or not, what they would do if they were upset or victimised or saw someone else being victimised. They also need to be made aware of their future and encouraged to leave a positive digital footprint. It is very advisable to check privacy settings for each app regularly and to monitor teens' usage of social media without being too intrusive.

In the survey students indicated that they speak to a parent, a family member or a friend when they encounter a problem. If this is the case and your teen has talked to you, please encourage him/her to come and speak to one of the counsellors. You are also welcome to come and share your concerns with us.
Here are some additional links to useful websites:

We hope that you will find this information helpful, and once again, if you have any concerns or questions, don't hesitate to email one of the counsellors.

Why won’t my child communicate with me

On the 8th of December (PLEASE NOTE THE NEW DATE) at 8:15 in the High School we will have a workshop on effective communication with teens held at the Examination Hall on the 7th floor of the Blue Building (High School). This workshop is for parents of students in Year 5 and beyond. We will include some situations relating to social media in our discussions. Mark the date in your calendars.

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Mental Health Awareness Day - 10th of October

Do you know anyone who is struggling with a mental illness? Have you suffered from a mental health problem in the past? Mental illness refers to a range of mental health disorders. Some of the most commonly diagnosed ones are depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders. Mental health problems are increasingly common in the fast-paced world of today. It is surprising how greatly mental illness affects people of all ages. Statistics say that 1 in 4 people in general and 3 children in an average size classroom are affected per year. So it is very important that we keep our minds open and either reach out, or help others cope with their illness. Social support is essential to coping with these problems; however, many people hesitate in reaching out to others. Therefore, it is important for us to have open dialogue with each other and our children, to make sure everything is fine and that they are doing well mentally. Some signs of an apparent mental health problem may be sudden withdrawal or moodiness in your child, disturbed sleep or appetite, intense fear or worry that interfere with daily activities, or drastic changes in behaviour and personality. These signs can definitely help us be more aware; however, we also have to be mindful of keeping calm and making sure we as parents don’t panic, but instead reach out for help and be there to support our children when needed.

Here are some tips to help you help your child or any friend facing a mental health problem:

  1. Asking “Can you tell me what’s happening?” or “How are you feeling?” might help start a conversation and show them that you are there and willing to listen to them

  2. It’s very important to have an open mind and not judge them for the issues they may be facing

  3. One needs to feel heard instead of being told what to do, so avoid giving advice

  4. Telling them that what they’re feeling is nothing and that they should just relax, rarely works. Instead, ensure them that you understand and that this will pass

  5. If they are unwilling to open up to you, suggest them a few resources or people they can reach out to for help (i.e. the school counsellor)

In some cases, your child may not want to talk to you or open up about any struggle. It may be helpful to engage in activities and have some family time, providing them with a safe and happy environment at home.

Here are some helpful links with additional information on mental illness and tips to help others cope: