Rockinghorse Children’s Charity are launching a range of new projects during Children’s Mental Health week aiming to support children struggling with their mental health.

The statistics describing the increase in mental health issues for children make for frightening reading. Between April and October last year, the number of children needing care for serious mental health issues increased by 77%*. This number can be difficult to put into context, but one in six children**, or five children in a class of 30 have a diagnosable mental health problem.

Donna Holland, CEO of Rockinghorse said “Through our work with children’s hospital services across Sussex we have seen a huge rise in children coming to hospital as a result of their mental health. Doctors and nurses are seeing the physical impact of mental health conditions, as services across Sussex are struggling to cope with the numbers of children needing support with their mental health.”

This huge rise in mental health and wellbeing concerns amongst children and young people can be attributed to many things, from the unmet needs of a generation pre-covid, to the influence of social media, the impact of home-schooling, social distancing, overwhelmed services and backlogs, and lockdowns during the pandemic. But whatever the reasons, it is vital that support is available to these children and young people who are really struggling.

Rockinghorse Children’s Charity fully understands the impact of this issue through their long-term support of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton as well as projects such as the activity programme at Chalkhill Child and Adolescent Mental health Unit in Haywards Heath and providing a specialist oncology psychologist that offers mental health support for children diagnosed with cancer.

Donna said: “At Rockinghorse we are very clear that children deserve to be children no matter how sick they are. The disruption of the last few years has caused stress, anxiety and isolation, for both children and their parents, which in turn has led to young people being less able to manage their mental health and, in some cases, making it worse.

“We have always supported children with their physical and mental health, in and out of hospital, and our new projects aim to ensure that ultimately Sussex is a better, safer place for children to be.”

The charity is funding a variety of projects with the aim of helping young people reduce stress, feel more connected to their peers, and improve their overall mental health and wellbeing. As well as supporting projects in the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital that help paediatric services support children presenting in A&E with serious mental health problems, the charity is also supporting children who are trying to manage long term and chronic health conditions.

These sick children have been profoundly impacted by the recent events, many of whom had to shield or drastically reduce any interaction with their peers, meaning they are moving even further away from any kind of normal life.

The charity is supporting projects that aim to help these children feel better able to manage their conditions, normalise their experiences, feel less anxious but above all, have some fun such as Woodland Wellbeing sessions, creative and sensory equipment, trauma informed yoga classes, self-help books and sea swimming for children with chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and many other long term, chronic health conditions.

Charlotte Savins, a psychotherapist from the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, will be running some of the Woodland Wellbeing sessions. She explained why these are so important for the children she works with: “For children already struggling with ongoing health issues, connection with other children in similar positions is so important. It helps normalise their experience, builds their resilience and improves their wellbeing.

“But during the last couple of years, these connections have disappeared, making an already difficult situation even harder to manage. These Woodland Wellbeing sessions will help re-establish these connections, enable these children to recognise that they aren’t on their own and that a little support can make a big difference.”

To find out more about the projects that Rockinghorse Children’s Charity is currently supporting please visit: https://www.rockinghorse.org.uk

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