Lisa Cohen: Tell young people it okay not to be okay

As adults we have a duty of care to take young peoples concerns seriously. Picture: John Devlin
As adults we have a duty of care to take young peoples concerns seriously. Picture: John Devlin
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It’s not often I look back on my life with regrets but as we launched our latest See Me campaign It’s Okay, earlier this week, I reflected that I wish this campaign had been around when my kids were going through their teenage years.

I can now openly admit that I knew nothing about mental health and was a typical parent dismissing early warning signs as attention-seeking and “teenage hormone attacks”. We longed for the day they’d “grow out of it”. I remember having no idea how to open up a conversation. No idea how to be there in a way that would help. And how I now wish they would have been able to come to me tell me that they “weren’t okay” without worrying about how I would react. As a mum of course I cared, but I just wanted to fix things . . . now I know it’s not that simple.

That’s why this campaign is so important. Because growing up can be tough. There are so many issues affecting young people’s lives impacting on their mental health and wellbeing. Worries about fitting in, looks, sexuality, understanding and making sense of feelings and even bigger issues such as living in poverty, having a difficult home environment or growing up in care.

As adults we have a duty of care to take young people’s concerns seriously. Their feelings are real. If a young person comes to talk to you or asks for help remember, it has probably taken a lot of courage to take this step so listen to them, REALLY listen. You might not have all the answers and that’s okay, showing you care makes a difference.

The more we talk about mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation, the closer we will be to ending the stigma surrounding mental health. If there is a young person in your life, ask them if they’re okay, if they say no, find out if there’s anything in particular they’d like to talk about. If you’re worried about them, let them know, it’s okay not to be okay.

Lisa Cohen is national programme manager at See Me. Find out more on www.itsokay.tv and on www.seemescotland.org/young-people