GP focus with Dr Jim Hacking

Date posted: 1st February 2022

Our GPs are an important part of Bay Health Care Partners and here our GPs and primary care colleagues have the opportunity to talk about issues and specialties that they are working on or interested in.

This month, Dr Jim Hacking, GP Executive Lead for Mental Health and Urgent Care at Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, shares advice and support on Children’s Mental Health in advance of Children’s Mental Health Week (7-13 February 2022).  

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Looking after a child or young person's mental health

Dr Hacking said: "Throughout our lives, there will be times when we all feel the strain. It is really important that parents and carers support children and young people to give them the best chance to stay mentally healthy.

Our children and young people have been through a lot recently, living through the stresses and strains of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including isolating at home and not seeing their friends, adapting to carrying out their school days from home, the loss of relatives and friends and more recently returning to face-to-face lessons at school after long periods of time in isolation.

With the emergence of the Omicron strain, children are still faced with the worry that they may have to deal with self-isolating because of an outbreak in school or another period of school closure or have worries about getting or passing on the virus. It's still uncertain what further changes we all may face."

Signs that something is wrong

Dr Hacking said: "Around one in eight children and young people experience behavioural and emotional problems growing up. For some, these will resolve in time but others may need professional support. There are ways to spot when something’s wrong. Look out for:

·         significant changes in behaviour

·         ongoing difficulty sleeping

·         withdrawing from social situations

·         not wanting to do things they usually like

·         self-harm or neglecting themselves.

Dr Hacking added: "If you are concerned about a child or young person’s mental health and wellbeing you can find more information and support at the following websites:

·         MindEd for families here.

·         YoungMinds Parents Helpline and WebChat

·         Action for Children

·         Barnardo’s Covid-19 support hub

·         The Childhood Bereavement Network

·         Children and young people’s mental health services."

Top tips to help support children and young people

Dr Hacking said: "Every Mind Matters has six tips to help parents and carers to support children and young people. They are:

·         Be there to listen - Regularly ask how they're doing so they get used to talking about their feelings and know there's always someone to listen if they want it. Find out how to create a space where they will open up.

·         Stay involved in their lives - Show interest in their life and the things important to them. It not only helps them value who they are but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.

·         Take what they do seriously - Listening to and valuing what they say, without judging their feelings, in turn, makes them feel valued. Consider how to help them process and work through their emotions in a more constructive way. You can find more information at the Anna Freud Support Centre guide here.

·         Support them through difficulties - Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour, and try to help them work through difficulties. It's not always easy when faced with challenging behaviour, but try to help them understand what they're feeling and why. You can find more support with difficult behaviour and emotions here.

·         Encourage their interests - Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all help our mental health. Support and encourage them to explore their interests, whatever they are.

·         Build positive routines - We know it still may not be easy, but try to reintroduce structure around regular routines, healthy eating and exercise. A good night's sleep is also really important – try to get them back into routines that fit with school or college. You can find sleep tips for children here."​​​​​​​

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