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What does it mean to find your brave?

04 February 2020 | by Faculty for Children, Young People, and Families

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and this year’s theme is ‘find your brave’. Dr Katie Hunt, from our Division of Clinical Psychology’s Faculty for Children, Young People and their Families, blogs on its importance.

A week of focus on children’s mental health is very welcome, and we know that children, parents and carers, teachers and anyone working with young people will be pausing to think about mental health. 

We want children to be able to talk about mental health - both their own and the general idea of mental health - but we know that in order to do this they need to be within supportive environments.

Children in supportive family environments might talk about it with a parent, carer, or other family member, and children in schools might be having specific lessons or assemblies this week that are designed to give them the chance to pause and reflect on what mental health means to them and to their classmates. 

We welcome the opportunities that Children’s Mental Health Week gives to these children.

However, things are not so straightforward for others.

Many children living within supportive family environments can be struggling with their own mental health, their reactions to the mental health challenges of those closest to them, or the circumstances they find themselves in over which they have no influence.   

There are also children who do not have a supportive home environment where they can safely express how they feel.

There are children for whom the very act of getting to school is almost overwhelming to the point where they cannot contemplate any reflection on their own mental health because it threatens to tip them into not being able to cope. 

There are children moving through placements who have yet to find anyone with whom they can feel safe.  There are children separated from their families.

There are children who are the carers of the people who we would expect to be caring for them. There are children in hospital who have to endure medical procedures and separation from home and family.

We can think of ‘finding your brave’ as something that we might expect children to do to show how well they are doing when faced with something difficult or challenging.

In the context of mental health, we might think of it as the ways in which children show courage in the face of adversity, or how they show us how resilient they are - even though we know that resilience is not something children have on their own. 

We might think of ‘finding your brave’ as something that children do that is visible to adults, but things are much more complicated than this

 Some of the children who experience the most complex challenges - like those described above - find their brave every day, but it may be invisible to the rest of the world. 

Finding your brave might mean just getting up every day and facing the thing that you most fear, yet still it defeats you. It might mean not getting to school. It might mean not being able to hold it all together throughout a whole day at school when everyone else around you seems to be able to get it right.

It might mean not being able to cope with yet another seemingly minor medical procedure. It might mean getting to school seemingly just like everyone else - on time and in the correct uniform, but having been up since the early hours caring for a parent or fending for themselves. 

Finding your brave might mean dealing with thoughts and memories inside your head but still being overwhelmed by them. It might mean presenting a face to the world that hides everything that is going on inside.

In fact finding your brave is each and every thing that a child does every day, unseen and often unrecognised by others, and which often results in them still not ‘getting it right’.

So when we, as adults, come into contact with children we should spare a moment to recognise how much they might have had to do to present a brave face to the world, and what might be going on inside.

We should know that, for some children, finding their brave face might be their biggest challenge yet and might feel anything but brave.

To find out more visit www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk

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