Covid’s mental health effect needs care says Bloomfield

mental health

Looking after your mental health is important. Kiwis “can’t afford” to lose sight of how Covid-19 impacted on this, Sir Ashley Bloomfield says.

Known for his leadership during the Covid-19 crisis, Bloomfield has recently become an ambassador for a mindfulness programme for school-aged children.

The Southern Cross-funded Pause Breathe Smile (PBS) programme is free and available for all kura, primary and intermediate schools.

Grant Rix and the Mental Health Foundation collaborated on the programme’s development, which started in 2013. Since then, 114,000 students have completed it.

“It really is about teaching kids basic mindfulness skills such as mindful breathing and body scan techniques and things like that, ” Rix says,

He explains these techniques start by helping them build a really healthy, positive relationship with their body.

Then they learn to apply those basic skills to other areas that are really important for mental wellbeing. These include being able to regulate our emotions, he says.

The programme helps children understand their emotions and accept it is okay to feel a certain way.

Results look promising

Southern Cross CEO Chris White says the programme is having positive results.

Over 1,000 responses from educators trained in the programme reported positive behaviour in the classroom increased by 12.4 percent, he says.

At the same time, negative behaviour in the classroom was reduced by 10.1 percent.

“We were also excited to see that 12 months on from introducing PBS, general student wellbeing was up 16.6 percent and that the number of students flourishing increased by 8.1 percent,” he says.

Bloomfield says children’s mental health is of great “interest and importance” to him.

His concerns are timely.

Antidepressant medications dispensed to children and teenagers increased 53 per cent in the past five years. The growth of prescribing to young people is causing unease among experts in the sector.

Bloomfield’s tips for parents

The former director general of health has some tips on looking after youngsters.

Bloomfield says Mindfulness is a good option: it teaches techniques that keep stress levels manageable.

It offers actions for when you’re under pressure, he says. That’s when you “drop anchor and ground yourself again.”

Find out what works for you

This is essential, Bloomfield says. It could be meditation, yoga, running a bike ride, or something else.

Know your boundaries; take active steps to stay within them for your physical and mental well-being.

Spend some time in nature

“We know the benefits of spending time in the natural environment, getting out into New Zealand’s beautiful bush,” Bloomfield says.

Spending time outdoors can help with gaining perspective, and engaging with the natural world is important.

Connect with loved ones

He says it is important for our well-being to connect with people that matter to us.

Putting effort into those relationships can help keep us grounded, especially when the pressure is on.

Be grateful

Bloomfield says there is good evidence that children who know how to be grateful for things are more positive.

“One of the best things parents can do is model that, model gratitude for their children.”


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

Tags: , , ,