50% of mental health difficulties begin before a child is 14 years of age, and the current pandemic has only increased the number of cases. To address and tackle this important issue, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in UK & Europe held special mental health webinars during November.

The first webinar, ‘Understanding Children’s Mental Health’, was held on 4 November 2020. This session was tailored for parents of children in Reception to Year 6. A second webinar, ‘Understanding Teenager Mental Health’ was delivered on 6 November 2020, focussing on issues relevant to parents of teenagers in Years 7 to 13.

More than 500 devices connected to these seminars, which were prepared and delivered by two BAPS volunteers serving in the Parenting Team, Dr Nisha Patel, a clinical psychologist, and Ms Priya Amlani, an anxiety specialist. These experts provided guidance on how to better understand the mental health of children and teenagers and techniques to resolve mental health concerns.

Their discussions covered the impact of mental health, especially in the Indian community, and explained the importance of family conversations regarding mental health as well as ways in which parents can create an environment for children and teenagers to feel safe and open about their concerns.

The presenters greatly emphasised the importance of an open and healthy parent-child relationship, as this in turn directly impacts the mental health of children and teenagers. They discussed strategies such as PACE (playfulness, acceptance, curiosity and empathy) in detail to help parents implement these at home.

Another important issue relevant to certain communities is the reluctance or delay in seeking help. The importance of seeking help quickly was encouraged and supported with helpful links and contact numbers where parents can access further information and support.

Many attendees expressed their positive feedback after the webinars. One father shared, “I learnt so much from today’s webinar. The talks were highly informative and eye-opening. They've shown me practical ways in which I can better support my child, and helped me realise how my words and behaviour, even though well-intentioned, might cause more distress if her needs are very different. Our family is truly very grateful for all that you're doing for us."

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