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Managing my mental health: Ella's story

Photo: When Ella lost her hearing, she had to rethink her perceptions of mental health.

"I lost my hearing very quickly, and while I was ok with the idea of being deaf, what I didn’t get was why I just didn’t feel happy. My mum told me at one point that you wouldn’t tell someone who had just lost their leg to just be happy, because it takes time to acclimatise to life changes like that. And that was when I realised that I’d not really understood what mental health meant.  

The phrase ‘mental health’ is nowadays used to mean mental illness, which it really shouldn’t. Mental health is simply how you are. Much like physical health, we don’t appreciate it when we’re well, and then it often becomes a bigger problem if it’s left untreated and unacknowledged.

For me, mental health means noticing not only what makes you upset, what triggers anxiety or what situations you get overwhelmed in, but also identifying what makes me happy, the things I enjoy doing and the things I look forward to. It took me a long time to recognise this and get in the mindset to think like this, but I think it’s really important for children to be taught to think in this way. Yes, it’s important to know where you need to be careful of your emotions, but children should also be able to tell you straight away what makes them happy and what they’re looking forward to. In identifying typical situation-based emotions, it's much easier to recognise and sort through emotions where we don’t expect them.  

The best and most useful support you can give to help your child with their mental health is time. This means giving them time to talk to you, giving yourself time to talk to them, and giving the whole family time to process emotions and recognise situation-based triggers and difficulties. Time also means you don’t set a limit on how long it takes to work through a problem. People have a tendency to try and compare themselves to other people. While this is sometimes beneficial, when it comes to mental health it really isn’t. It’s such a personal thing, and all setting a time limit does is make you worry when that timescale suddenly seems unachievable.

The only time limit you are allowed to set is ‘one day’. One day your funding fight will be over and you won’t be so stressed about that. One day your child will feel comfortable talking to other kids in class. One day they’ll lose their fear of roads. ‘One day’ might indeed be one day, it might be weeks, months, years, but you will get there, one day."