Emotional Wellbeing and Distress

Understanding Wellbeing to support young people – Emotional Wellbeing and Distress

Emotional wellbeing, along with physical wellbeing are two key components to a person’s life.
A young person may not have a mental health problem to be experiencing emotional distress. It is important to remember that emotional distress is a normal reaction to a stressful situation/circumstance. Everyone goes through issues in their life which cause them to feel vulnerable, unsettled and/or confused. Everyone also has different ways of coping or conveying their feelings.

For a young person emotional distress can be heightened as they have less experience of understanding their feelings, and situations are new, for this reason (and others) growing up can present many emotional challenges and a young person’s experience of distress may be compounded if they feel unable to express their emotions and less awareness of how normal their feelings are.

It is at this initial stage that support and a listening ear can be most beneficial. Professional’s such as teachers, parents and friends, may often notice a change in a young person’s behaviour or character, e.g becoming quiet and less social, and may put it down to part of growing up, however that young person may be experiencing feelings which they don’t understand and by simply taking time to give them space to talk may help them deal with the trigger and accept and normalise their feelings. Acting at this stage may also prevent further and more concerning behaviours as a young person continues to struggle with feelings and thoughts without support.

Growing up is a time of change and whether planned or not, wanted or not, change can be a very stressful time. Feelings of uncertainty, loss and anxiety are all very normal feelings, yet for a young person it may be the first time they have had these feelings, presenting an even greater challenge.

Here is a list of just some events which are typical to growing up that may present a stressful situation,
Bullying from peers
Peer pressure
Changing classes/school
Expectations of others – teachers/parents
Expectations of self
Body changes
Sexuality
Falling out with friends
Exam pressures
Being a shoulder to cry on for others

It is important to remember that whilst a situation may have little effect on one person, for another person it may have a far greater impact.

Some young people may also experience what may be described as acute stress factors, for example;
Bereavement
Family breakdown/divorce
Accident
Moving area
Abuse – verbal/physical/sexual
Neglect
Poverty

Young people express distress in many different ways, but some of the signs of a young person struggling with their thoughts, feelings and/or emotions may be;
Change in character
Change in moods
Crying
Withdrawal
Change in sleeping pattern
Change in diet/eating pattern
Underachievement
Looking for approval
Ritualistic behaviours
Self-harm
Separation anxiety
Over sensitivity
Lateness
Negativity
Presentation of self

Whilst it may not be possible to take the trigger away, to change a young person circumstance, it is possible to give a young person support, time to listen and where applicable professional intervention. By providing young people with the tools to cope with emotional distress, recognising emotional distress when it occurs, acting on signs of emotional distress and offering time and support are key to preventing longer term problems and promoting emotional wellbeing for a young person.

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