Freephone 0800 234 6282

Children’s Mental Health week is every week at St Christopher’s

Children’s Mental Health week is every week at St Christopher’s

Marc Whittaker, a Psychological Therapist for the charity, has taken over this month’s CEO’s Blog and explains why.

Children’s Mental Health Week took place between the 5-11 February and the theme this year was ‘My Voice Matters.’ The focus, to help empower children from all backgrounds and abilities to be recognised and supported, to be able to make positive changes to both their wellbeing and mental health.

Children who feel that their voices are heard and believe they can have influence can develop a greater sense of community and self-esteem.

When approached by St. Christopher’s to see if I would be able to put my thoughts onto paper around this subject matter, I was enthusiastic to take an opportunity to “reflect” not only on its importance, but also to think about the instrumental roles and responsibilities we all have at St Christopher’s in enabling children to feel able to have a voice, explain why this is so important and look at what we can all do to encourage this to happen.

Through my various mental health roles, the importance of people feeling heard is an intrinsic component of improving and maintaining an individual’s mental health and so the fact that this theme keeps reappearing is entirely down to design.

Feeling accepted

Feeling accepted by others, helps children grow self-esteem, feel they can fit in, without compromising their own beliefs or having to conform. Having their true selves accepted for who they really are is vital for their healthy emotional and psychological stability. Having our views recognised tells us that our feelings, actions, intentions, and thoughts are meaningful.

How can we actively support this?

In my role as a Psychological Therapist within the St Christopher’s Therapeutic Wrap around team in the UK, one of our key aims is to support staff to be able and confident to support children through engagement in “reflective spaces.”

Creating reflective practice, either through group or one to one reflection, means that we are actively collaborating in a process to develop a space where we can feel safe and not judged, so we can feel more able to explore thoughts and feelings and develop greater self-awareness.

Self-knowledge is critical if we are to develop strong, authentic relationships with children and young people. We have to be able to recognise what is going on for us emotionally, as the children and young people are likely to challenge our emotions at times and connect us with feelings that are private; and it is when our private emotions take over in practice that we risk over-stepping professional boundaries.

Our collective responsibility

Taking personal and collective responsibility for reflecting in and on practice on a frequent and regular basis strengthens our relational abilities and our competence to contain the distressed and distressing emotional behaviours, reactions and responses from children and young people.

Reflecting on what we are seeing and hearing as staff, helps us to keep the child in mind. We value all children as being unique and it is important to be open to their voice and able to see things from their perspective. Children and Young people join St. Christopher’s having had a myriad of experiences, coming from diverse cultures and backgrounds and with varied levels of development. We need to spend time engaging, participating, playing and being creative, always listening and observing. To fully try and know the child or young person, we must come “alongside them” and meet them at where they are at.

At St Christopher’s we are striving to create new and more secure attachments and to develop and enable knowledge based trust to grow, meaning children feel safe and valued. These new attachments help the child to begin to explore more and through our curiosity, they too can become curious and eventually be more able to “express themselves”.

Making time for reflection may seem a challenge, but most importantly, it helps us to develop empowering and transforming relationships with the children and young people we are caring for.

Reflective spaces for Young People

Last Year the therapeutic team began offering more opportunity for reflective spaces for children and young people in the residential home settings, to encourage feeling safer and more comfortable to work with therapeutic teams and feel more confident to engage with mental health professional’s both now and in the future, by understanding and experiencing that their voice can be heard.

Final Thoughts

My reflection has reminded me of all the various “spaces” that are created daily by all members of St Christopher’s staff to come alongside children and young people and help them find their voice. This extends from senior leaders, to managers, residential home staff, foster carers, support workers, social workers, and teams including Participation, Learning Support, our Staying Close service and EDI focus group as well as all central operations staff.

At St Christopher’s every week is Children’s Mental Health week, we are all working daily in supporting our children and young people to feel able to be heard and to that end I am proud to be a small cog in the St. Christopher’s Family, where it is our joined up work that makes a difference.