Parents, school and surroundings play an important role in ensuring healthy living of a child, particularly their mental health. Across the globe, World Mental Health Day is celebrated every October 10, emphasising the issue of people’s wellbeing in maintaining mental health.
The Mawar Association recently organised a programme called ‘Mental Health in Children’ focusing on raising awareness among parents and guardians regarding what their children may encounter and how to address rising concerns.
Person in charge of the initiative Habibah binti Haji Hamzah explained that the programme is a continuation of what they carried out last year.
“Last year, we conducted a talk online using the Zoom application since it was during the pandemic phase. This year, since the Sultanate has entered the endemic phase, we conducted the programme via a physical session.
“We have three objectives for this programme, one of which is to raise awareness for parents and guardians on the importance of mental health among children especially in ensuring their physical, growth and emotional development at optimum level.
“Secondly it was for them to learn and be aware about the mental health status among children, especially in the context of Brunei Darussalam and third is to assist parents in handling or addressing the matters pertaining to mental health issues.”
Asked why mental health issues in children should be a concern for parents and guardians, Habibah explained that people and society used to talk less about mental health as it was considered a taboo or had limited knowledge about this.
Over the years, she added, more and more agencies led by the Ministry of Health (MoH) raised awareness about issues related to mental health.
“Many agencies have organised talks and activities in conjunction with World Mental Health Day. In observing the occasion, the Mawar Association also discussed a programme highlighting mental health issues among children.
“In addition, the topic of mental health in children is seldom being discussed or talked about. Therefore, Mawar Association took the platform to share about the matter.”
Elaborating on the common signs, symptoms or issues that could trigger mental health issues, Habibah explained that many factors could relate to it.
Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, children tend to be easily over exposed to devices, which could be one of the factors affecting their mental health.
“Other factors might circle around the child’s bonding or relation with the family, school surroundings – we may not know if they were being bullied at school, or in terms of education such as having their result not up to expectation. All these could affect their mental health, which gradually could lead to depression and anxiety in them.
“Therefore, from this programme we try to help or provide a medium of awareness for parents and guardians to identify what the cause factors or types of mental health that could occur in children and how parents could learn what action or methods need to be taken to help their children in managing mental health or seeking for treatment.
“As parents, in my opinion, we must always observe the well-being of our children. We should realise if they are sad or have uncertain emotions as well as physical. We must be alert. Try to talk to them, if they have problems, worries or anxiety, even matters that they are concerned about.
“Parents should also take notice if something surfaces at schools. Talk to their teachers or counsellors at school. Find the right channel to discuss the matter and how they can manage or address the concerns to supplement the mental health in children.
“If they find something serious, they need to seek professional assistance. Do not leave the matter unattended,” she highlighted.
Habibah advised parents and guardians to have a balance in life to ease depression and anxiety in children. As for devices, parents should take control in allowing their children to spend time with the devices, and try to find mutual interests, hobbies or activities that could strengthen family bonding where everyone can participate.
“For me, we often spend time swimming, which everyone loves. This is one way that we could be together and by having such activities it boosts our physical health. If we are healthy, our mental, physical and emotions become healthy.
“We try to find other hobbies like café hopping or maybe Kenali Negara Kitani (KNK) by exploring new places in Brunei, exposing my children to new things, spending time with them. We as parents also need to learn to manage our time with the children,” she added.