Talking Mental Health during Transition

CDC's Lead for Transition, Catherine Goodall, talks through the key take-aways from her workshop on mental health at the Transition Event Midlands 2019. 

It was great to be at the Transition Event in Solihull again this year, running a series of workshops on mental health. As always, it was a fantastic day full of enthusiastic young people, parents, practitioners and organisations, coming together to talk about transition.

Actress and Disability Campaigner Sam Renke chaired the day, and spoke brilliantly about her experiences as a young disabled person. She explained how she felt she was too dependent on her mum to help her, which was an obstacle to building her own skills and confidence. Sam talked about how we need to support parents to gradually scale back their care to help young people develop the skills they need to take care of themselves.

We all go through the process of becoming less dependent on our families as we grow up. Some young people with significant and complex additional needs continue to rely on parents and carers far more and much later into adult life than others.

But as Sam explained, this can mean parents and young people develop co-dependent and unhealthy adult relationships. It’s really important to think about and plan for ways that young people can build their independence. This may be finding other carers who can take up support from parents, or exploring different living arrangements.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

The Transition Event took place during Mental Health Awareness Week, which was the perfect time to talk about how we can understand our own mental health, and best support disabled young people and their families.

I have recently reflected a lot on this in my personal and professional life. At times we all experience difficult situations and a wide range of emotions. Growing up and moving into adulthood is a challenging time for most people, when momentous changes take place and support networks can drop off. So how can we help young people to deal with these changes, particularly when they are disabled or have other additional needs?

In our session with young people we focused on an average school day, to look at the different things they might feel and how they then might behave. We can all do the same, asking ourselves if we’re frustrated during the morning commute? Sad because you miss a friend you haven’t seen in a while? Excited to play with your children when you get home?  Breaking down our experiences can be a really helpful way to take a step back and reflect on how different situations make us feel.

Feeling well

Talking about mental health can often feel difficult or daunting. We can feel unequipped or unqualified to talk about mental health for fear of making something worse or not saying the right thing. But feeling mentally well is about far more than just a clinical diagnosis when something goes wrong.

Campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week are important because they spark conversations, raise awareness and help us to remember that we all need support to be and stay mentally well. Talking to other people about how we are feeling can have a huge positive impact and can help us to see a way out of difficult situations.

Supporting a friend or a loved one when they seem to be having a difficult time doesn’t have to be daunting or difficult, it could start with just a simple conversation.