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Spotting the dark cloud: mental health support for young adults

It has never been more pertinent to educate families about the early signs of mental illness.

A younger person in your life may understandably be concerned or feel overwhelmed right now; they might be anxious about their own health, or the heath of someone in your family. Likewise, they could be finding social distancing hard to deal with.

In fact, research carried out by Benenden Health found that a third of parents have seen a negative impact on their children’s mental wellbeing since the outbreak of coronavirus. Despite this, 37% of parents haven’t tried to source help.

It’s important to remember that you may not have all the answers, but you can help to contain their fears and anxieties by simply being there.

We spoke to Dr Mohammed Munawar, clinical psychologist and principal clinical lead, about the step’s you can take to help a young person suffering with signs of anxiety and depression.

Dr Mohammed Munawar’s tips for parents: Seven ways to help a young person suffering with anxiety and depression:

1. Make sure they don't feel judged

Mental health problems are very common and can affect all of us.

Unfortunately, there’s still a social stigma that can lead to discrimination, prejudice or stereotypes being formed.

This stigma means that young people are sometimes reluctant to acknowledge they’re having difficulties and as a result may not talk about how they’re feeling due to fears that other people may find out.

Young people can often suffer in silence and their symptoms and difficulties can persist. It’s important not to be judgmental or negative towards this, and instead encourage openness and talk to them.

2. Don’t take their reactions personally

It’s not you that is to blame for their health.

As a parent or guardian, mental illness can often seem like a personal indictment. However, many factors can cause mental health problems. It is important that you do not take things personally. Focus on being there for your child now.

3. Keep calm and focus on listening

Don’t criticise or pass judgement, this can only worsen the situation.

It can be extremely difficult for a child to open up about suffering from a mental health issue, and it’s essential to always be mindful of this. Sometimes as a parent or guardian, you can feel angry that your child has not opened up earlier but the most helpful thing you can do initially is to listen. If your child feels listened to and understood, they may be more likely to express how they are truly feeling and what they are struggling with.

With so much uncertainty around us right now, sticking to a routine can really help maintain a sense of normality and help create a calm and stable environment.  ​


  • Keep calm and listen to your child

  • Be understanding and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Be careful not to lecture your child, or to be critical or dismissive. Avoid comments like, “there’s nothing wrong with you”, “snap out of it”, “get your act together”, or “in my day, life was much tougher,” as this will only discourage your child from talking about their difficulties.

4. Offer help and be positive

Ask them what you can do as a family to support them.

When young people are suffering with mental health difficulties, it can often be a lonely and isolating experience. Let them know that you are there for them to talk to at any time, and you will always listen. By being positive and supportive, it can instil hope that things will improve.

Try a positive activity, for example reading, painting or cooking to help reassure them and reduce their anxiety. This is also a great way to provide a calm space to talk through their concerns.

5. Create a more positive and healthy environment

Promote healthy eating and encourage regular sleeping patterns.

When young people are suffering from depression and anxiety, common symptoms include disrupted sleep and appetite problems. Gently encouraging eating regular healthy meals, even if it’s just a small amount, can help achieve a balance between rest and activity.

6. Encourage them to spend more time on shared activities

Gently encourage your loved one to take part in light physical activity.

Be mindful that mental health difficulties can impact on physical energy levels and motivation. Gently encourage them to take part in some light physical activity, even if this is just for a few minutes at first.

School may have ended early, and this disruption may be stressful. Take some time to create a new routine, building in things to do and enjoy. Increasing activities in a graded and manageable way can help improve someone’s mood.

7. State that support is available

It is important to tell them that in addition to your support, there is also professional help available.

Whilst it’s normal right now to feel worried or overwhelmed, it’s important that your child knows you are there to support them. Encourage them to speak to somebody they trust whether that be a friend, family member, a teacher or a helpline.

Seeing someone’s face really can make a difference and help lift spirits especially for a young person who has been isolated from their friends. Think about ways to keep in contact with people and use apps such as WhatsApp and Zoom to talk to someone face to face. It’s important to speak to people you trust during this time and continue to stay connected.

Watch our video on the nine potential trigger signs for parents to be aware of in young adults.

It’s also essential to look after your own mental health. As a parent, you will be keen to help your child, however, you don’t have to cope with everything on your own.

You may find that you need some extra support right now, so think about who you personally can turn to for example your partner, family and friends, or a helpline that can talk to you about how you might be feeling.  

Feeling Anxious or Depressed?

Below are details with more information about mental health, services and organisations that offer support directly to people:

  • Mind - Provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

  • NHS Choices Moodzone - Offers practical advice, interactive tools, videos and audio guides to help you feel mentally and emotionally better.

  • Samaritans - Offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you.

  • Mental Health Foundation - Support and research for good mental health.

  • Young Minds - Help for self-harm.

About our healthcare

Benenden Health provides affordable private healthcare for everyone. Giving access to our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline from day one of membership, so you can speak to a counsellor at any time of the day or night for immediate emotional support. Our face-to-face Mental Health Support is available after 6 months.