The 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day, which aims to raise awareness and start more inclusive discussions around mental health.
Some people have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. These are conditions that do not go away easily and can affect people’s daily lives. But for most of us, our mental wellbeing is more abouthow we feel and cope with each day.
It can change from moment to moment or year to year.
This year’s theme was set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘mental health for all’. This is the idea that discussions about mental health should not be specific to those with mental health issues. That’s a very important distinction to make; we all need to take care of our mental health and wellbeing.
Having good mental health/ wellbeing doesn’t mean that you are always happy or that you are always sad. But that there is a balance between the two extremes.
We have some tips on practical and easy steps you can take to improve and maintain your own wellbeing and to check in on others:
Things you can do to help your mental wellbeing:
○ Make time for yourself. It’s important to find things that you enjoy doing and that help you to relax. Try to fit them into your day or whenever you feel a little down or off. For example, this could be playing a sport, going for a walk, or being with your friends.
○ Try mindfulness. You have probably heard of it, it is a method of paying attention to the moment. Its been shown to help people become more aware of their thoughts and make it easier to manage one’s feelings. Check out this website for more information on mindfulness.
○ If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a break and step away from the situation you are in, if you can. A change of scene could help calm your mind so you come back feeling better.
Things you can do to help a friend:
○ Check up on them. Take the time to talk to your friends about how they are and what is going on at home. Connecting with people helps to create a sense of belonging and to build positive relationships.
○ If you notice your friend isn’t doing too well, spend some time outdoors together. Being outside can really help improve your mood. You could kick a ball around, play with your pet, or watch the clouds.
○ Have a laugh. Sometimes it can make a world of difference. Do you have any suggestions for you that you like to do to improve your mental wellbeing?
Let us know below.
Have you ever walked into a room only to forget what you needed? Or opened the pantry only to forget what food you were looking for? I have these forgetful moments daily.
I am about to start my mid-semester break which sounds exciting. But first, I have mid-semester exams.Yuck!
With the amount of time I have spent studying, I have found myself forgetting about everything else I have to do. So it got me thinking, what is the science behind forgetfulness? Is there a reason I am forgetting every little thing at the moment?
Maybe my brain can only handle so much at one time, or maybe I am just a
forgetful person. Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus found in his research that within about 20 minutes of reading the paper, people often forget about 42% of what you learned or read. Within 1-hour people can forget up to 56%.
Although there is no one reason for forgetfulness there are 3 common explanations. The first is retrieval failure which is the inability to recall a memory without some kind of reminder. An example of this is when you cannot remember the name of a certain singer but when one of their songs comes on you
suddenly remember. The second reason for forgetfulness is inference. This happens when similar thoughts or memories get confused. The last is ineffective coding which is where you simply fail to move the information from your short term to your long term memory.
Try and guess below what categories the following memory mistakes fall into (retrieval, inference, coding):
● You meet someone new and you are so busy trying to make a good first impression that you forget their name
● You order an ice cream but the server mixes up your flavour with the person before you
● You can’t remember what job your mum asked you to do before she went out and only remember when you hear her come home.
However, scientists say that forgetting may actually be the brain’s strategy for processing incoming information. Our brain is not a filing cabinet to remember everything but a computer for making smart decisions.
Hopefully, my brain will kick itself into gear and remember some things during my exams though….
Do you guys every experience forgetfulness? What’s your funniest story? Comment below!
There’s lots we can do to help ourselves calm down if we feel scared or anxious.
Fear and anxiety
Fear is a normal and healthy emotion – although it’s not very pleasant. It often has physical signs like feeling sick, tense, shaking, sweating, or getting butterflies in the stomach. If we’re scared or frightened because we’re in real danger, we need to respect that fear and act on it (i.e. run away from the angry tiger that is chasing us and shout for help).
Anxiety (feeling worried or nervous) is generally fear in the wrong place. We can feel anxious about something that hasn’t happened, might not happen … or something that isn’t happening at the moment (like messing up a test or a date; or people being mean to us).
Think of it like a see-saw: With fear, our response to a threat is balanced and in proportion to a real threat; with anxiety, we are weighed down and more fearful than is necessary.
What can I do?
If you feel anxious, there are many things you can do to help yourself feel better:
Say it: Talk to
someone you trust about how you feel: it usually helps to get things out. They
may be able to help you work out a good plan for dealing with your anxiety or
its root cause.
Services like Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline also offer to listen and support you.
Breathe: Breathe in for 3-5 sec, out for 3-5 sec. Keep on until you feel calmer. Some people like to draw the sides of an imaginary square or a star while they are doing this. It’s a great thing to do while you’re waiting to make that speech in class, or sing solo at assembly.
5,4,3,2,1 Grounding: Think of five things you can see, four you can touch or feel, three you can hear, two you can smell and one you can taste. This lets your upstairs brain get back in control. It’s a really good thing to try after you’ve had a fright when you need to calm down.
Relax: Your anxious body is like a stack of stiff raw spaghetti. Lie down, and working your way up from your toes let it relax and become floppy like cooked spaghetti. Maybe try this if you can’t sleep at night because you’re all worked up over something.
Distractions and apps: We can use activities to take our mind off things (“distract ourselves”). Try telling yourself jokes, drawing stars, reciting times tables, or listing all the characters in your favourite story as you wait at the dentist. There are also lots of apps available to help with anxiety that work by either distracting or calming us.
Exercise: Works as a distraction and also to release emotions and tense muscles. Walk, swim, dance … do yoga or stretches. It will all help.
Calming jars, and bottles: Put glitter, sequins, beads, food colouring, water and maybe hair gel or clear glue or in a bottle or jar and screw the lid tight. Shake it and imagine that’s how your jumbled thoughts look when you’re anxious. Watch how everything settles after a few minutes if it stays still. Try shaking your jar when you’re upset, and calm down as it does.
Happy place: Find one in your head – or in real life – and go there when you need to.
“Coping Skills Spotlight: 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Technique”. Retrieved from: https://copingskillsforkids.com/blog/2016/4/27/coping-skill-spotlight-5-4-3-2-1-grounding-technique 11 December 2017.
The Brain from Top to Bottom, McGill University, nd. “Managing Stress”. Retrieved from: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/outil_jaune02.html 12 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 14 April 2016. “Stress – Learning to Relax”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1738 11 December 2017.
“What is Resilience?”, “Loving Ourselves”, “Handling our Feelings”, “What are Feelings?”, “Stress”, and “Managing our Functions ” Life Education Factsheets.
PreschoolInspiration .com., 13 November 2014. “Six ways to make a Calm Down Jar”. Retrieved from: https://preschoolinspirations.com/6-ways-to-make-a-calm-down-jar/ 13 December 2017.
What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz
We all have rights and responsibilities to one another and to ourselves.
What are rights and responsibilities?
Human rights are the
basic things that most people agree every human being deserves to have or experience,
no matter how rich or poor they are, or where they live.
Human responsibilities are those things that most people agree we have to do, or think about because they affect our life or someone else’s, another living creature … or our world.
Most people can be relied on to “do the right thing” by
other members of society. But we also have international laws and agreements (also
called things like “Conventions” or “Declarations”) to help us respect people’s
rights and meet our responsibilities to them.
There’s even a special Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is just for children.
What are some examples of rights?
The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies 42 different rights. You can see the full list here. But we generally think of every child as having the right to:
- Somewhere safe to live
- Warmth and food
- A name
- Personal safety and space
- Free speech and thought
- To be themselves (even if different)
- No discrimination (equal opportunity)
What are some examples of responsibilities?
Responsibilities can be large or small. You might have them at home (like walking the dog, tidying your room), at school (doing an assignment), or in the wider world (obeying laws). Examples of some very general and large human responsibilities include:
- Following the laws and rules of our society or community
- Standing up for others and ourselves
- Respecting and protecting others
- Keeping ourselves and our environment safe and healthy
Can you find examples of other sorts of responsibilities?
If someone doesn’t accept or take on their responsibilities:
- It’s unfair and can make life harder for others, or even start to take away their rights
- It can have consequences for the person (like going to jail, being less successful or less happy; or being thought of as selfish or lazy by others)
- Other people might think they can act the same way … and then everyone suffers
People sometimes refer to “freedom” – the power or right, to act, speak or think as we want without interference from others. The American social worker and psychotherapist Virginia Satir thought that every human should give themselves “five freedoms” to live a happy life. She based these freedoms on our five senses:
The freedom to see and hear what is here
Instead of what should be, was or will be.
The freedom to say what one feels and thinks
Instead of what one should.
The freedom to feel what one feels
Instead of what one ought.
The freedom to ask for what one wants
Instead of always waiting for permission.
The freedom to take risks on one’s own behalf
Instead of choosing only to be ‘secure’ and not rocking the boat.
What do you think of these five freedoms? How to they compare to rights?
PsychCentral.com., 18 May 2011. “The Five Freedoms of Becoming More Fully Human – Virginia Satir and Mental Health”: author A Staik. Retrived from: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/05/the-five-freedoms-of-becoming-more-fully-human-%E2%80%93-virginia-satir-mental-health/ 17 December 2017.
UNICEF, n.d. “The 42 Rights of a Child”. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org.nz/child-rights 13 December 2017
Women and Children’s Health Network, 10July 2017. “Rights and Responsibilities”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1712 13 December 2017.
Community Law, Wellington [HO1] and Hutt Valley, n.d. “The Rights Education Project (REP)”. Website at: http://www.wclc.org.nz/the-rep-rights-education-project/ with modules and guides on legal rights on alcohol, drugs, family, sex, tenancy, etc.
[HO1]Absolutely fantastic resource for older children and families, from the legal angle but with good advice and supporting resources.
The best way to deal with cyberbullying is by reporting it or talking about it.
What is cyberbullying?
Online bullying – or cyberbullying – is using technology
like shared texts, emails, online posts, images, messages or videos to
embarrass, threaten or harm someone. It can range from spreading rumours to
encouraging violence. Unlike physical bullies, cyberbullies often choose to
hide their identity. They can also bully from a distance and reach lots of
people with just a few taps on a keypad, which can be very stressful for their
Like all bullying, it’s not OK. No one has to put up with it and it can be stopped.
What can I do if I’m being cyberbullied at school?
It’s important to remember that – despite using technology – cyberbullying still depends on real people to spread and respond to it, so people are the key to shutting it down. If you’re being cyberbullied, there are some practical things you (or your caregivers ) can do to stop it:
- Tell someone what is happening and that you are upset by it – don’t suffer alone.
- Check out your school’s policy on cyberbullying and see what they can do.
- If you’d rather not talk to friends, family or school you can always contact Netsafe , Kidsline, What’s Up, or Youthline for confidential support and advice on what to do or how to cope.
- Change your phone number, block or unfriend bullies, and alter your online profile or privacy details so they’re more secure; most providers offer help with settings.
- Collect evidence of the bullying: keep messages, take screen shots or photos, record dates and urls, or print emails.
- Consider taking a short break from some or all social media; you have the right to be online, but sometimes a rest can help calm both emotional and media storms.
- Report what’s happened to your internet or mobile provider – they may be able take down or block certain numbers and sites that break their code of conduct.
- If what’s happening is really serious or scary, consider telling the Police.
What can I do to protect myself online?
- Choose carefully with whom you share your mobile and online details and any messages or posts: one US study found 17% of all so-called “private” emails/texts were shared – often with more than one person.
- Set your privacy settings to protect what can be shared on social networks like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat; organisations like Netsafe and Sticks ‘n Stones also have great advice on how to do this and how to report things like bullying.
- Never give anyone else your passwords/logins.
- Don’t retaliate or respond to internet bullies and trolls – they might use it against you or as an excuse to continue; they’ll lose interest if they aren’t getting a response.
- Never join in cyberbullying – what goes around often comes around.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 4 May 2017. “Cyberbullying – Bullying From a Distance”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=288&id=2704 2 November 2017.
Netsafe, 2 October 2015. “How to Use Privacy Settings on Social Networks”. Retrieved from: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/privacy-settings-on-social-networks/ 2 November 2017.
Netsafe, 23 December 2016. “Online Bullying Help for Young People”. Retrieved from: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/reporting-young-people/ 2 November 2017.
Sticks ‘n Stones, n.d. “Dealing with Bullying”. http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/youth/dealing-with-bullying/ 1 November 2017.
Sticks ‘n Stones http://www.sticksnstones.co.nz/our-project/
What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/
Upstander versus Bystander , Life Education Factsheet.
Empathy is the ability to understand how another is feeling and even share in that feeling.
Why is it important to have empathy?
Empathy is the key to making and keeping connections with people. It’s about linking two or more minds by recognising and respecting others’ feelings and attitudes. It’s likely to increase helping behaviours like sharing, comforting or showing concern. It can stop us from embarrassing ourselves – or others. Think how a three-legged race goes much better when you and your partner can sense and communicate how to move and which way to turn.
What does it look, sound or feel like when someone has empathy?
Someone showing empathy might be said to “put themselves in another person’s shoes”, “be in tune with them”, or “get inside their skin”. Empathy can take many forms. Sometimes we just feel it; sometimes we act on it. Here are some examples[H1] :
A toddler tries to comfort someone who is crying by offering them a favourite toy.
A pre-schooler sees a picture of her mother laughing or smiling and says “Mum is happy”.
We squish over to make room on a bench so someone doesn’t feel left out.
We feel happy when our friend wins a prize.
We understand how upset someone who is being bullied might feel, so we don’t join in.
We don’t say loudly “Look – that lady is SO FAT” if we see a very large person on the street.
We know why our little sister is both nervous and excited about starting school.
We don’t make a loud noise when we know someone is tired or upset.
We understand why someone did something bad … or had to do it in a certain way.
A counsellor senses when a client’s ready to talk about a hard topic, and when they’re not.
We understand the feelings of a person in a song, book or film – even if we don’t like them.
Someone says “I know how you feel … I understand your frustration…” and really means it.
We smile or wave at someone … even if we don’t know them.
It’s easier –but not essential – to empathise if you’ve had a similar experience. Reading, different social contacts, or just taking time to think and talk about others helps us develop empathy. Empathetic people are often great negotiators, advisers, and listeners who show tact, compassion, kindness, consideration and good manners.
Can you think of some other examples of showing or feeling empathy?
In which jobs or situations might having empathy be particularly important?
California Department of Education, 26 September 2016. “Foundation: Empathy”. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09socemofdemp.asp 8 November 2017.
The Brain from Top to Bottom, Mc Gill University, nd. “Sharing Other People’s Pain”. Retrieved from: http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_03/d_03_s/d_03_s_dou/d_03_s_dou.html 8 November 2017.
Is there a difference between empathy and sympathy?
They’re pretty similar and not all dictionaries or psychologists agree on how to define them. Sympathy most commonly means showing sadness or pity for someone because we know something bad has happened to them (like feeling sorry for flood victims) and/or wanting to help them. It’s the tiny difference between being ‘with’ them in their feelings (pathos) as opposed to ‘in’ them.. In everday speech the difference is small and often lost. What’s important is that they’re both great emotions for us to use with people.
Can you think of some jobs or situations where empathy might be particularly important?
A good friend brings out the best in you and is there for you, whatever happens.
What does a good friend look like?
Friends can come in many forms: they can be young or old, or might even be an animal like a pet. A good human friend:
A lways brings out the best in you
G enerally keeps your secrets, unless they affect your safety
O ften shares your interests
O ften shares your feelings, and always understands you
D efends you and sticks up for you – even when others don’t
F orgives you if you make
mistakes or do something silly that hurts them
R egularly shares with you: toys, thoughts, fun, limelight … everything
I ncludes you in whatever they’re doing
E ncourages you and isn’t jealous of you
N ever lets you down
D oesn’t try to control you, but tells you when you’re doing something stupid
They may not do all these things all the time; but they’ll do many of them most of the time.
Being friends and having friends
We can be a friend to others as well as having friends ourselves. People often say:
The best way to have a friend, is to be one.
We can also be a good friend to ourselves by taking time to look after our body and mind.
What about when friends fight or move on?
can change over time, like any relationship. And friends can argue and make up.
Everyone feels left out by their friends – even their besties – from time to time. Sometimes it’s because we’ve done something silly of hurtful to them, perhaps without even realising it. Sometimes it’s because our friends are people just like us and make mistakes – just like we do. Sometimes we just don’t “click” anymore because one or other of us has changed.
If we’ve upset our friends we need to say sorry to them. If they try to make up for something that they’ve done to upset us we should accept their apology and move on.
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah Winfrey
Women and Children’s Health Network, 13 October 2016.
“Friendship”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=1636
5 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 15 February 2016. “Shyness – Are you[HO4] Shy”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=1636 5 December 2017.
“How can I make friends ?”, “Loving Ourselves: Self-love and Self-Compassion”, Life Education factsheets.
“I’ll be There for You”: by The Rembrandts. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-9pLZQ4vu0 6 December 2017.
“Friends will be Friends”: by Queen. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAQ4sJZ5IsU 11 December.
“You’ve got a Friend in Me”: cover from Toy Story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIYOJ_hSs0o Retrieved from: 7 December 2017.
It might sound a bit weird, but you can be your own best friend!
Being on our own
Some children can’t travel to school each day. They manage to learn and make their own fun at home. Even with mobiles and the Internet there may be times when we’re out of contact with friends and family: if we move, over the holidays, or perhaps if we’re sick.
There are lots of things we can do to have fun when we’re on our own.
What can I do?
Treat being on your own as an opportunity to get to know and express yourself:
Show yourself a bit of self-love. Take time to think about what you like about yourself, and maybe make a list of all those things. Treat yourself, make something delicious to eat, or find out more about a topic that interests you.
Get back to basics. Switch off the computer and earphones. Go for a walk, ride or a swim. Read some books. Think about life. Take time to enjoy the beautiful world around you.
Practise something you know you want to do better. It might be shooting hoops, writing, juggling, speaking confidently, singing, doing gymnastics, or bike tricks.
Try something new. No one can see you … so now’s the time to attempt that Rubik’s cube, have a go at skateboarding, make pancakes, or try out that new hairstyle.
Get creative! Try your hand at painting, writing, making music, cooking, pottery, playing games, puzzles, or programming. You might unlock a hidden passion or talent.
Help someone. Walk the dog, do some gardening, help out at home – it will all be appreciated. Maybe raise money for charity by holding a garage sale or other stall (art, drinks, or cakes). Perhaps there is someone in the neighbourhood, possibly an older person, who would love your help or companionship.
Or just chill. We all need a bit of peace and quiet sometime to think about who we are, where we’re heading, and how we want to get there.
“Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Women and Children’s Health Network, 4 May 2017. “Feeling Lonely”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1800 5 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 13 October 2016. “Friendship”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=286&id=1636 5 December 2017.
Women and Children’s Health Network, 23 January 2017. “Social Skills”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=2905 5 December 2017.
“What makes a good friend?”, and “Loving Ourselves: Self-love and self-compassion ” Life Education factsheets.
Change is a part of our lives. Changes often make our lives happier and better – but sometimes they don’t. It helps to have strategies and support to deal with these times.
What are talking about?
Losses and changes can go together (like when we change schools we may lose some friends but we’ll make new ones). Sometimes they’re big, sometimes small. We usually deal easily with small losses (like losing a pen, or not passing a test); and also with changes that are small (switching teams), expected (growing up), or happy (a new family member).
What might it feel like?
Big changes or losses can make us feel a lot of different emotions. We might feel:
Angry Sad Scared Frustrated Relieved Shocked
Lonely Tired Sorry Nervous Confused Distracted
Sick Ashamed Guilty Responsible Excited Disbelieving
How can I deal with what I’m feeling?
Look for the good or the growth. Try to see the change as opening the door on a host of opportunities and adventures: like seeing a different part of the country or world, making a fresh start, the chance to make new friends, or the chance to try something new.
Talking. Sometimes we can feel guilty or responsible for something (like when parents split up) that isn’t our fault or responsibility. Talking to someone can help us realise that. If we’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, it helps to talk or ask questions about what’s happening.
Sharing feelings. This is another way to deal with feelings like confusion, fear, worry, and anger. If someone empathises with us, it can help us realise that we’re not alone in facing this situation. It can also help put things in perspective if we’re over-reacting.
Draw on our deep pool of resilience . Loss and change (perhaps after an accident) can dent our confidence and self-esteem. We need to remember that we are all strong and can overcome set-backs if we hang in there… Nothing lasts forever, including feeling this way.
Time for self-love. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset for a while after a big loss or change – especially if someone dies. Think of it like recovering from a big injury: we’ll be sensitive, need some quiet time to heal, and should practise some self-love to get us through.
Find a healthy distraction. It might be exercise, music, dance, reading … cooking. Some time out helps our minds and bodies stay strong enough to deal with whatever happens.
Messages and memories. Moving away doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch with friends or family via calls, visits, games or online chat. Photos can also help us remember people and places. And sharing memories of someone who’s died can be comforting at times.
Some changes or losses can be particularly hard to deal with:
- Moving away from our school, home or country
- Our home being destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake
- Having something precious stolen from us
- Big changes in health, perhaps from an accident or sickness
- Lifestyle changes, perhaps after a someone loses a job or moves out
- When a pet, friend or family member dies and we feel grief (sadness) over their loss
There is no shame or weakness in asking for time, help or support to get through them.
There is always someone or something that can help us get through. Find them.
Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 11 September 2017. “Changing Schools”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&id=1654&np=286 20 December 2017.
Women’s and Children’s Health Network, 17 July 2017. “Coping with Change – Loss and Grief”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1649 18 December 2017.
Women’s and Children’s Health
Network, 18 September 2017. “When Parents Split Up”. Retrieved from: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=287&id=1660 19 December 2017.
What’s Up? http://www.whatsup.co.nz/