Shepparton News

Discuss mental health with kids: Coventry

- By Rosa Ritchie

Victorian chief psychiatri­st Neil Coventry addressed the public yesterday, speaking about the impact the pandemic had on mental health, and although he didn’t shy away from the challenges and hardship all Victorians were experienci­ng, his key message was one of optimism.

“We are all feeling, to some extent, confused and very uncertain about the future,” Dr Coventry said.

“I want to really emphasise this is a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation we currently are experienci­ng.

“The good news I want to share is that fortunatel­y, most of us will be able to cope with this challenge; we will use our normal resources and strengths, and our sense of resilience in the support we have around us, from our family, loved ones and friends.”

But Dr Coventry acknowledg­ed some people were really struggling, and he was particular­ly concerned about children and teenagers.

He urged the community to identify the people in their lives — family and friends, kids, colleagues or schoolmate­s — who were finding lockdowns more difficult, and ensure they knew help was available.

“We need to feel positive, that people will be able to cope with this, that children and families are resilient,” Dr Coventry said.

“They will have the capacity to use their strengths to get through this very challengin­g situation, for the majority.”

The chief psychiatri­st said there were a few simple things that parents could do to help the young people in their lives.

The first was to establish normal routines, finding a balance between study, downtime, exercise, good food and sleep.

Dr Coventry emphasised the importance of parents or guardians having honest, regular conversati­ons with their children about their feelings.

“We need to be talking to our kids about how they are coping; please, reach out to your kids, don't be anxious and afraid to have the conversati­ons about how your kid is coping,” he said.

“How are they feeling at the moment? What are the challenges and their confusions about what is going on?

“This is a series of conversati­ons, not a one-off single intense conversati­on.”

Dr Coventry recommende­d looking for opportunit­ies, like during a shared activity, to have important chats.

“Encourage them to ask questions and as adults try to answer those questions as truthfully as you are able to,” he said.

“The earlier we can identify the problems, the better the outcomes — we need to make sure we intervene as soon as we possibly can.”

Help is available via the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or at kidshelpli­ne.com.au or at headspace.org.au

In an emergency call 000.

 ?? AAP ?? Victoria’s chief psychiatri­st Dr Neil Coventry. Picture:
AAP Victoria’s chief psychiatri­st Dr Neil Coventry. Picture:

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