Mental health is not as openly discussed as it should be, especially when it comes to children. The truth is, the same mental health issues that affect adults can also affect children. As parents, we have a job to safeguard our children, which includes safe guarding their mental health.
There are many issues surrounding mental health which range from depression to schizophrenia, and they may all have different causes and triggers. Some mental health conditions have a genetic role, some are caused or triggered by situations around them and some are caused or triggered by biochemical imbalances in the brain.
When the cause or trigger is simply biochemical, it is essential to ensure that your child is consuming enough nutrients to create the correct neurotransmitters and hormones. Hormones such as serotonin, otherwise known as the happy hormone is made from the amino acid L-tryptophan. This is created in the gut, and then transported to the brain with insulin. This means, that in order for your child’s body to be able to produce this happy hormone, they need to be consuming enough protein and complex carbohydrates at regular intervals. A mix of both is recommended every 2-3 hours.
Another major nutrient for the brain is omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are stored in the brain and are necessary for normal brain function. Ways to increase Omega-3 fatty acids are through eating oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon and topping up with a kid’s Omega-3 supplement.
Environmental stress can play a large part in poor mental health. Stress at school such as exams, bullying or peer pressure can all mount up. Remember that bullying and peer pressure doesn’t always have to be in person, it can be cyber as well. It’s important that you take steps to safeguard your child online such as ensuring that the computer they are using is in the family environment and not in their room. We should teach our child about online bullying and pressure and create a trust where they can disclose any issues to you or another adult. It is a great idea to limit the online time that your child has, and encourage them to get outside and exercise instead.
Exercise promotes the production of endorphins and feel good hormones and is regularly recommended by Doctors for low moods and depression. Even better is doing exercise outside. The sun exposure increases vitamin D levels, and plant extracts which when breathed in reduce the level of stress hormones in our bodies. Vitamin D is also beneficial for the immune system. Try signing your child up for an outdoor activity where they can meet other children their age. Good options include tennis, football, sailing, cricket or athletics.
The most important thing is for your child to know that they can talk to you if there is a problem without the fear of them being judged. If you do suspect mental health issues, then your GP should be informed so everyone can work together for their benefit.
Haliborange children’s Omega-3 supplements come in a delicious tasting orange syrup or in a chew to make them more fun for children to take.
Learn more about the importance of Omega 3 with our Expert Chats with Nutritionist Shona Wilkinson: