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Student Mental Health – How to Get Help When They Need It

Mental health problems are as common among students as they are in the general population.

But it’s not just students who have a diagnosed mental health condition that can benefit from counselling.

Alan Percy, head of counselling at the University of Oxford, says: “A lot of difficulties are not caused by medical problems, but by normal life problems, such as family or relationship issues, or anxiety about their work.

“While these problems are distressing, through counselling we can help students to understand them, and then suggest strategies for dealing with their feelings.”

When to get help

It’s normal to feel down, anxious or stressed from time to time, but if these feelings affect your daily activities, including your studies, or don’t go away after a couple of weeks, get help.

Signs of depression and anxiety include:

  • feeling low
  • feeling more anxious or agitated than usual
  • losing interest in life
  • losing motivation

Some people also:

  • put on or lose weight
  • stop caring about the way they look or about keeping clean
  • do too much work
  • stop attending lectures
  • become withdrawn
  • have sleep problems

Where to go for help

Talk to someone

Telling someone how you feel, whether it’s a friend, counsellor or doctor, may bring an immediate sense of relief.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust first, such as a friend, member of your family or a tutor.

This is especially important if your studies are being affected. Many mild mental health problems can be resolved this way.

University counselling services

Many colleges and most universities have a free and confidential in-house counselling service you can access, with professionally qualified counsellors and psychotherapists.

You can usually find out what they offer and how to make an appointment in the counselling service section of your university’s website. This free service in universities is available to both undergraduates and postgraduates.

Many universities also have a mental health adviser who can help you access the support you need.

As well as counselling or therapy, you may also be entitled to “reasonable adjustments” such as extra time in exams, extensions on coursework, and specialist mental health mentor support.

Student-led services

Many student unions also offer student-led services. Although the students involved aren’t qualified counsellors, you may prefer to talk about problems such as stress and depression with another student.

Online self-help

There are also online self-help services you may like to explore, such as NHS Choices’ Moodzone and the Students Against Depression website.

When to see your GP (* physician)

For more serious or longer-lasting mental health symptoms, see your GP as you may need prescribed treatment or referral to a specialist.

If you have or develop a mental health condition that requires treatment, it’s important to arrange continuity of care between your college doctor and your family GP.

A mental health adviser can support this communication. Your condition may worsen if moving between university and home results in a gap in treatment.

Therapy and counselling

Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers an opportunity to explore the underlying issues of your unhappiness or any worries you have in a safe environment, including helping you develop ways of coping.

As well as university or college counselling services, you might be able to refer yourself for NHS counselling. Search for psychological therapy services** in the UK to find out what’s available in your area.

The University Mental Health Advisers Network (UMHAN)** represents the network of mental health advisers working in higher education dedicated to providing practical support to UK students experiencing mental health difficulties.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

At all UK universities, you have the opportunity to apply for a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)**.

Your mental health adviser can help you apply for a DSA, but you will need to provide evidence of a long-term mental health condition.

The DSA pays for:

  • specialist equipment, such as a computer, if you need it because of your mental health condition or another disability
  • non-medical helpers
  • extra travel as a result of your mental health condition or disability
  • other disability-related costs of studying

Even if you decide not to apply for a DSA, the mental health adviser will still be able to let you know what support is available.

Drugs, drink and mental health in students

If you’re feeling low or stressed, you may be tempted to drink more alcohol or relax by smoking cannabis.

Consider how this may make you feel in the longer term though, as your mood could slip, making you feel a lot worse.

Some cannabis users can have unpleasant experiences, including confusion, hallucinationsanxiety and paranoia.

There’s also growing evidence that long-term cannabis use can double your risk of developing a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

Ecstasy and amphetamines can also bring on schizophrenia, and amphetamines can induce other forms of psychosis.

Any underlying mental disorder could be worsened by drug and alcohol use.

Read more articles about drugs.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States





How to Reduce Your Baby’s Teething Pain

Teething can be distressing for some babies, but there are ways to make it easier for them.

Every baby is different, and you may have to try a few different things until you find something that works for your baby.

Teething rings

Teething rings give your baby something to chew safely. This may ease their discomfort and distract them from any pain.

Some teething rings can be cooled first in the fridge, which may help to soothe your baby’s gums. The instructions that come with the ring should tell you how long to chill it for. Never put a teething ring in the freezer, as it could damage your baby’s gums if it gets frozen.

Also, never tie a teething ring around your baby’s neck, as it may be a choking hazard.

Teething gels

Teething gels often contain a mild local anaesthetic, which helps to numb any pain or discomfort caused by teething. The gels may also contain antiseptic ingredients, which help to prevent infection in any sore or broken skin in your baby’s mouth.

Make sure you use a teething gel that’s specially designed for young children and not a general oral pain relief gel, as these aren’t suitable for children. Your pharmacist can advise you.

It’s best to talk to your pharmacist or GP before using a teething gel for babies under two months old.

If your baby is chewing

One of the signs that your baby is teething is that they start to chew on their fingers, toys or other objects they get hold of.

If your baby is six months or older, you can give them healthy things to chew on, such as raw fruit and vegetables. Pieces of apple or carrot are ideal. You could also try giving your baby a crust of bread or a breadstick. Always stay close when your baby is eating in case they choke.

Find out what to do if your baby starts choking.

It’s best to avoid rusks, because nearly all brands contain some sugar. Avoid any foods that contain lots of sugar, as this can cause tooth decay, even if your child only has a few teeth.

Paracetamol (*acetaminophen) and ibuprofen for teething

If your baby is in pain or has a mild raised temperature (less than 38C), you may want to give them a sugar-free painkilling medicine that is specifically for babies and young children. These contain a small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Children under 16 years old shouldn’t have aspirin.

Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine. If you’re not sure, speak to your GP (*doctor or pediatrician) or pharmacist.

Comforting a teething baby

Comforting or playing with your baby can distract them from any pain in their gums.

Preventing teething rashes

If teething is making your baby dribble more than usual, gently wiping their face often may help to prevent a rash.

Caring for your baby’s new teeth

You’ll need to register your baby with a dentist when their teeth start coming through – find a dentist near you.

Start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first milk tooth breaks through.

For more advice, read about looking after your baby’s teeth.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Additional note:  Avoid benzocaine teething gels – there are plant-based natural teething gels that do not have the same drug safety concerns as noted by the US FDA:
https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm250024.htm

 

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How to Handle Your Child’s Learning Disabilities Diagnosis

Having a learning disability diagnosed can be difficult, and in some cases it isn’t clear what the learning disability is or why it happened.

However, your child’s abilities and needs can be assessed to make sure they get the support they need.

Learning disability diagnosis

Some learning disabilities are discovered at birth, while others are not diagnosed until much later. If your child is diagnosed at or around birth – for example, with Down’s syndrome – their doctors probably won’t be able to tell you exactly how it will affect their development. The extent of your child’s disability will become clearer as they reach the ages when they should be talking, walking or reading.

For children who are not diagnosed at birth, finding out they have a learning disability can take time. “The main problem is that learning disabilities are quite hard to diagnose very early in life,” says Dr Martin Ward Platt, consultant paediatrician at Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

“There may be very little in the way of developmental signs. If a child hasn’t started talking by the age of two, that can be linked to learning problems later on, but this is not certain.”

Most learning disabilities are obvious by the age of five. “Intellectual function [also known as cognitive ability] can only be assessed by testing children from the age of five, so most children with these disabilities are only diagnosed when they start school,” says Dr Ward Platt.

Even after a diagnosis is made, it can be hard to tell how it will affect your child in the future. However, your child’s current needs can be assessed to work out what kind of support will help them, and they will be referred to a paediatrician (a specialist in child health). You can talk to parents of children with learning disabilities in your area to ask whether they can recommend a good one.

Find a local learning disabilities support group in the UK through Mencap**.

Getting a learning disability diagnosis

In the UK – under the Children and Families Act 2014, social services has a duty to assess children in need, including children with disabilities. The aim is to identify the child’s specific education and healthcare needs and draw up a plan of action for meeting these needs.  (**see below for resources in the U.S.)

For more information on all aspects of being a carer in the UK, including practical support, financial matters and looking after your own wellbeing, see Care and support.

If you believe your child has an undiagnosed condition, your GP (*doctor) should be able to help you to get the advice you need. The UK charity Scope’s expert forum includes advice for families who can’t get a diagnosis**.

Your child may also benefit from an assessment of your care and support needs.** The assessment establishes the needs of a child with a disability and which services would be best for them. The purpose of the assessment is to draw up a plan of action for your child.

After diagnosis

If you’ve had concerns about your child, you might feel relieved to have a diagnosis. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions. Find out as much as you can about your child’s needs.

Most parents assume their children will be healthy and develop normally, so hearing that your child has a learning disability can come as a shock. It takes time to accept the diagnosis and to mourn the child you might feel you have lost.

Talking to your child’s doctors, nurses, support groups or friends and family can help, although friends and family might need their own time to accept what has happened. Many parents find it helpful to contact other UK families** who have been through the same thing, as talking to other parents can be a useful source of support.

Counselling can also help, so ask your health visitor or GP (*doctor) for recommendations.

Developmental delay

The term “developmental delay” is sometimes used to describe a child’s condition if they are not progressing as expected. “By itself, ‘developmental delay’ is not a diagnosis,” says Dr Ward Platt. The main issues when assessing a child for learning disability are:

  • By how much is the child delayed, and in which areas?
  • Are there areas in which the child is not delayed?
  • What explanation for any delay might lie in the child’s background (such as a long stay in hospital for an unrelated condition)?
  • What underlying medical condition might explain the delay?
  • Is the delay likely to be the product of a low level of care and inadequate stimulation in the home?

Delay is not always significant. “Some children are slow to walk, so may appear to be delayed. But if one of the parents was very slow to walk, then it’s likely the delay just runs in the family,” says Dr Ward Platt.

Check out our selection of apps to help people with learning disabilities in our Digital Apps Library.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States

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Video: How to Care for Your Child When They Have a Fever

Fever is a common feature of childhood infections. In this video Dr Ranj Singh explains how to help a child with fever recover as quickly as possible. Be sure to also watch the NHS Choices video on spotting the signs of sepsis  so you know what to do if your child isn’t getting better.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

Keep a close eye on temperature:

  • Babies under 28 days: check with an underarm thermometer
  • Older Children: check in the ear.  Do not use forehead strips
  • Fever is >38°C  (*100.4°F) .  It is a normal response to an infection

How to treat it?

  • Lowering temperature will not  shorten the illness or treat the cause of it.  It will simply ease your child’s discomfort.
  • Can manage pain with paracetamol (*acetaminophen) or ibuprofen.  Do NOT use both at same time.  Start with one and if it doesn’t work, try the other.
  • Dosage is on the package.  Only use while your child to treat your child’s distress and don’t exceed the maximum daily dose.
  • Do not over or under-dress them

Avoid dehydration

  • Children with a fever need to drink more to prevent dehydration
  • Signs of dehydration
    • Dry Mouth
    • Decrease in urination (fewer wet nappies / diapers)
    • Fewer or no tears
    • Sunken eyes
    • Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of baby’s head)
  • Encourage drinking – less, more often
  • Breastfeeding moms – make sure to avoid becoming dehydrated yourself
  • If diarrhea or vomiting – drink more frequent, less often, avoiding fruit juice or carbonated beverages
  • Oral rehydration solution (ORS) – can help the body absorb fluids

Antibiotics are not regularly prescribed as most childhood infections are viral, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.

Additional simple things you can do

  • Check child for response to your touch during the night. If they don’t respond as they typically would, wake them and check symptoms
  • Keep them home and notify school or nursery of their absence
  • Maintain home hygiene

When to get help

  • Contact your GP (*doctor) or NHS 111 if you have concerns about your child’s condition
  • Contact 999 in the UK (*911 US) in an emergency or if they exhibit any of the signs of Sepsis mentioned in the video

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

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From www.nhs.uk





Winter is Coming: What You Need to Know About Kids and Colds

Young children get colds quite often because their immune system is still developing.

It can be worrying when your child gets a cold, but it’s not usually serious and normally passes within two weeks.

Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about colds in children.

Is my child’s cold serious?

Colds aren’t usually serious, although young children are at an increased risk of developing further problems, such as ear infections.

Very occasionally, more serious problems such as pneumonia can develop, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your child.

Read more about spotting signs of serious illness in children.

What is the difference between adult and child colds?

  • Children tend to get colds far more often than adults.
  • The symptoms are generally similar in adults and children, including a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and a high temperature (fever).
  • Most colds in children get better on their own without treatment, although they may take a little bit longer to recover than an adult would.
  • Sometimes it may seem as though you child has had a cold for a very long time, when in fact they’ve had several different minor infections with a short recovery time in between.

When should I see a doctor?

You should seek medical advice if:

  • your child is under three months old and has a temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above, or is between three and six months old and has a temperature of 39C (102.2F) or above
  • their symptoms last more than three weeks
  • they seem to be getting worse rather than better
  • they have chest pain or are coughing up bloodstained phlegm – this could be a sign of a bacterial chest infection that needs treatment with antibiotics
  • they’re finding it difficult to breathe – seek medical help immediately from your GP surgery or local hospital
  • they have, or seem to have, severe earache (babies with earache often rub their ears and seem irritable) as they could have an ear infection that may need antibiotic treatment
  • they have a persistent or severely sore throat – they may have bacterial tonsillitis, which needs antibiotic treatment
  • they develop any other worrying symptoms

Why won’t my doctor prescribe antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Colds are caused by viruses, so do not respond to antibiotics.

The overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, where bacterial infections become less easily treatable.

Your doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics only if your child has developed a bacterial infection in addition to their cold.

What can I do to help my child?

The following tips may help your child cope with the symptoms of a cold:

  • encourage your child to rest and make sure they drink plenty of fluids – water is fine, but warm drinks can be soothing
  • if they have a blocked nose, you can make their breathing easier by raising the pillow end of your child’s bed or cot by putting books or bricks under the legs, or placing a pillow under the mattress (although you shouldn’t put anything under the mattress of a baby younger than one year old)
  • liquid paracetamol (*acetaminophen) or ibuprofen can help ease a fever and discomfort – check the dosage instructions on the packaging and never give aspirin to children under the age of 16
  • a warm, moist atmosphere can ease breathing if your child has a blocked nose – take your child into the bathroom and run a hot bath or shower, or use a vaporiser to humidify the air
  • keep the room aired and at a comfortable temperature, and don’t let your child get too hot – cover them with a lightweight sheet, for example

Speak to your pharmacist or GP (*pediatrician) for advice if you’re not sure how to look after your child or what medications are suitable for them to take.

More advice and information

You can find more detailed information and advice about looking after your child in the NHS Choices pregnancy and baby guide.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

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From www.nhs.uk

Is Your Teenager In An Abusive Relationship? You CAN Help!

Violence can happen in teenage relationships, so make sure you know the signs and can help your child.

Abuse in relationships – including those between teenagers – can happen to men and boys, but it’s much more likely to happen to women and girls. It also happens in same-sex relationships.

Different types of abuse

Physical abuse can include hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, pushing, and pressuring or forcing someone into sexual activity.

Emotional and verbal abuse involves a person:

  • saying things that make their partner feel small or stupid
  • pressuring their partner to do things they don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • checking up on their partner – for instance, by text – all the time to find out where they are and who they’re with
  • threatening to hurt their partner or someone close to their partner, including pets

Warning signs your teen is being abused

Signs of abuse can include your child:

  • no longer hanging out with their circle of friends
  • not doing as well at school, or skipping school altogether
  • constantly checking their phone
  • being withdrawn and quieter than usual
  • being angry and becoming irritable when asked how they’re doing
  • making excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • having unexplained scratches or bruises
  • showing changes in mood or personality
  • using drugs or alcohol

Warning signs your teen’s partner is abusive

It’s a sign of controlling or violent behaviour if your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • gets extremely jealous
  • monitors texts, messages, calls and emails, and gets angry if there isn’t an instant response
  • has trouble controlling his or her emotions, particularly anger
  • stops your child seeing or talking with friends and family as much as they’d like
  • uses force during an argument
  • blames others for his or her problems or feelings
  • is verbally abusive
  • shows threatening behaviour towards others

How to help

  • Talk to your child about what’s OK and what’s not in a relationship. Some teenagers believe violence is “just the way things are”, or is “just messing around”.
    • Make sure they understand that violent or controlling behaviour is not OK, and that nobody should put up with it.
  • Some girls believe that if their boyfriend gets jealous or checks up on them, it means he loves them.
    • Let your teenage girl know that this kind of behaviour is not about love or romance, it’s about control and her boyfriend making her behave in the way he wants.
  • Some boys might believe that controlling their girlfriend’s behaviour makes them more of a man.
    • Make sure your teenage boy knows that using violence does not make someone a man.

Talking tips

Before you start the conversation with your teenager, think through what your concerns are.

Consider talking about it confidentially with someone like your GP (*doctor) or a friend. This will help you understand your own feelings so you won’t be too emotional when you talk to your child.

Try not to talk to your teenager in a confrontational way. Say you’re worried about them and ask if everything’s OK.

Even if they don’t talk to you at this point, they might go away and think about things, and talk to you later.

Show your support

Tell your child they can always come to you, no matter what.

Victims of abuse can feel ashamed and believe (wrongly) that the abuse is their fault. Make it clear that being abused is never your child’s fault, and you will help them if they come to you.

You can also tell them about helplines, such as ChildLine (0800 11 11)** or the NSPCC (0808 800 5000)** in the UK, which they can call if they don’t feel they can talk to you.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

** Resources in the United States

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