Leona O'Neill: Help your kids make connections for Children's Mental Health Week

Human beings thrive in communities. When we have healthy connections to family, friends and others it can support our mental health and wellbeing, something highlighted by the annual Children's Mental Health Week, writes Leona O'Neill...

The social isolation of the Covid pandemic hit teens hardest
The social isolation of the Covid pandemic hit teens hardest

NEXT week's will be the eighth annual Children's Mental Health Week, a key national moment for recognising and supporting the mental wellbeing of our young people.

This year's theme is Let's Connect, one so important after the last few years when we have been told to stay apart, isolate and keep our distance. Connection with our family, our friends, our classmates, our colleagues, our peers is crucial for our wellbeing.

The pandemic era has been so damaging on so many levels, particularly for our young people. For some of them the years they lost to the pandemic were so important with regards finding their way in the world and developing socially. Everything was taken from them.

They were without their friends, they were learning from home without the important social contact with their school friends, they had at best an unstable routine and their social life was pummelled into the ground.

Through no fault of their own they were stuck at home living through the most surreal of days as a global pandemic raged on outside their windows. And they didn't have their usual fall-back mental wellbeing coping mechanisms to help them.

Although the Covid era is thankfully mostly behind us, there is still a hangover from those days that will take a while to fully shake.

I remember speaking to my son during the worst days of the pandemic. He was 16-years-old then. I said that, when I look back at that time in my life, I remember music and cheap beer and endless nights out. I said I was sorry that when he's my age he'll look back and remember lockdowns, school closures and online teaching and masks and sneaking out to meet friends in fields.

Our young people are magic. They are more resilient and adaptable than we think. They struggle, like we all do, faced with the crazy challenges that the coronavirus presented us with, then a cost-of-living crisis that impacted on their families, war, financial pressures, political crises and everything else this mad world throws at them. They remain vibrant and creative and compassionate.

That doesn't mean they don't struggle. Everyone does. And it is so important that they know this is normal, that there is help there and that they can help themselves feel better by connecting.

Our young people need our support
Our young people need our support

We were all in survival mode for so long. It's not a normal state to be in and it can take its toll. Our young people need our support. They need encouragement to talk, to express themselves. Despite the laughing, the "I'm grand" and the stoic front, they still need us to show them everything is going to be alright. They need to talk things out, they need to connect.

First launched by Place2Be eight years ago, Children's Mental Health Week is crucial in reminding our young people that we need healthy connections – to family, friends and others – to bolster our mental health and our sense of wellbeing. Being able to connect with another human being, whoever they are, and talk things out, share our thoughts and listen to and help one another is the aim of the game.

Human beings thrive in communities, and this connection is vital for our wellbeing, and our survival. When we have healthy connections – to family, friends and others – this can support our mental health and our sense of wellbeing. And when our need for rewarding social connections is not met, we can sometimes feel isolated and lonely – which can have a negative impact on our mental health.

There's an old saying. A problem shared is a problem halved. We're not meant to go through things alone, we don't have to go through things alone. For Children's Mental Health Week 2023, we should all make an effort to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways. Let's Connect is about making meaningful connections for all, during Children's Mental Health Week and beyond.

Log on to for ideas on how you and your child's school can get involved in this important day.