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Emotional Wellbeing

Feeling stressed, anxious or worried about your health or that of your family, or finding it difficult to deal with the impact of coronavirus is understandable. There are many organisations and resources that can help children, young people and families to look after their wellbeing at this time.

In Islington, our Social, Emotional, Mental Health (SEMH) Services are available to support any young person in the borough who may be displaying difficulties with their emotional wellbeing and/or mental health. Referrals can be made through our central point of access. Please note, all referrals are screened for safeguarding in the first instance.

Please call 0207 527 7400 or 0207 527 3355 between 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday or complete the referral form.

For information about SEMH services which work with children and young people in Islington schools please visit the SEMH services page. 

The Islington Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) website provides information about th service.

Kooth is a free online counselling and emotional well-being support service providing young people aged 11-18 years (up to 19th birthday) in Islington with a free, safe and secure means of accessing support from a professional team of qualified counsellors. Alternatively, if young people don’t feel like talking to a counsellor, there are numerous wellbeing resources on the website that young people can access for support and advice.

Childline can be contacted online or by phone: 0800 1111.  They also have lots of articles and message boards for young people from age 11 (all message boards are moderated).

Barnardo’s has a specific helpline which has been set up to support Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic young people and families. This helpline was set up in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who have been disproportionately affected. The service is aimed at children, young people and their families from these communities. Helpline advisors can provide a service in English, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Amharic, Tigrinya and Mirpuri. Therapeutic sessions can be provided in English, Bengali, Hindi, French, Punjabi and Greek. You can find more information on their helpline.

Managing worries and anxieties: for children and young people

Young people may have been managing anxieties before the pandemic, or the pandemic may be causing its own problems. Most young people agreed that coronavirus has made their existing mental health concerns worse. However, there are lots of conversations about the impact of the pandemic on everyone’s wellbeing, so you are not alone and there is plenty of help and advice available.

Do the basics – – Have a day to day routine, which you can stick to and that includes a suitable bedtime. Drink water and eat healthily. Keep active. Recognise your achievements from the day and do something fun in the evening. If you are finding it hard to do these things, talk to someone.

Talk to a trusted person – this could be a family member, friend, teacher or helpline. Expressing how you feel can help you feel better and maybe find a solution or new perspective. Kooth offers safe, anonymous online support for young people.

Talk to a professional – if you are struggling with low mood, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or other issues and this is impacting severely on you, it is time to get professional help. Contact the Social, Emotional and Mental Health Services for a discussion or a referral.

Body & Soul’s weekly MindSET is a weekly livestream session to help young people learn skills to manage emotional distress and prevent harmful behaviours. Any young person can register.

Young Minds has ideas for young people about managing their mental health and what to do if they are anxious about coronavirus, and Mind also have useful advice.

Managing your children’s worries and anxieties: for parents and carers

It is normal during these uncertain times for children, young people and parents to be anxious. Here are some ways to manage your child’s worries and anxieties:

  • Check in and normalise: Talk to them about it and how it is making them feel. Make sure to keep explanations developmentally appropriate and let them know that their feelings are okay.
  • Limit media intake on coronavirus: seeing or hearing about the pandemic repeatedly and how it is constantly evolving. The Child Mind Institute has useful advice on this.
  • Coping Skills: Try online resources to teach children skills like mindfulness and breathing exercises for when their worries feel out of control. Chill Panda is one example being tested in the NHS. Here are two other relaxation and breathing exercise videos: video one, video two.
  • Help children manage uncertainty: Show children in your words, and in your actions, that tolerating a degree of uncertainty is okay, and that sometimes we just can’t know.
  • ‘Worry time’: For children who seem to be spending a lot of the day worrying, or coming to you repeatedly with worries, set aside a small amount of time a day (e.g. 5-10 minutes) where they can share their worries with you. Listen and talk through these with them. If they try and talk about them before this, remind them to save it for worry time. Saving worries for later will show your child that nothing bad happens when they don’t worry.
  • Routines: Having a routine will help children to cope with the huge changes and will support them in managing their worries.
  • Spend quality time with your child: Have fun with your child. This will help everyone to feel good.
  • Focus on the positives/things you can control: Teach children to focus on the things they can control, such as telling family they love them, drawing a picture or writing a letter/email to a friend they have not seen in a long time. Remind them of the practical steps they are taking to stay safe, such as washing hands and social distancing. Focus on the positives and encourage positive conversation. This can have a big impact on shifting negative moods.

The World Health Organisation has a useful summary of how to help children cope.

For parents and carers: looking after yourself

Coronavirus has brought a lot of uncertainty to our lives, many of us are still working from home, others have had to find new work, all whilst trying to think of new and inventive ways to keep our children entertained and stimulated, when there are still restrictions in place. This can become overwhelming, so it is important to ensure that you are taking care of yourself so that you are best placed to take care of others.

Evidence suggests there are five steps that can help improve mental health and wellbeing. The NHS has more information about the five steps. Here are some ideas on how to apply them at this time.

  1. Connect: staying virtually connected with friends and family you cannot see is important to curb feelings of loneliness while following social distancing guidelines. Aim to schedule video calls regularly so you can catch up with those loved ones.
  2. Be active: Set out some time at the beginning of your day to do some exercise. This could be anything from stretches, to yoga, or some high intensity interval training. Even five minutes can make a difference. If you are unsure of where to begin, The NHS has some easy 10-minute workouts you can do in your home.
  3. Take notice: Take some time to relax and appreciate the small things you can appreciate about your family and your home. There are lots of free guided mindfulness apps you can download such as ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’.
  4. Learn: Learning new skills (like a TikTok dance!) or improving existing ones will keep you busy and enable you to feel a sense of achievement.
  5. Give: Giving back to your community can help to make you feel happier and more valuable. Look on social media to see what your local community is organising and how you can get involved!

NHS Every Mind Matters has ideas to help with stress, sleep, anxiety and low mood and the Mental Health Foundation has advice on looking after your mental health at this time.

You can call the Samaritans (tel; 116 123) any time for free, or write them an email or letter, which they will answer.

iCope is an NHS service that provides free confidential help for problems such as stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. At the moment, everyone who self-refers will receive a brief phone call offering practical and emotional support suggestions.

Coping with illness

If someone in the family becomes unwell with coronavirus and your child is feeling worried, let them know they can talk to you. Be honest about what you don’t know but do reassure them that clever, experienced doctors, nurses and scientists are working hard on this and will be doing their best to help their family member.

Child Bereavement UK has useful advice, when you can’t visit someone who is ill.


Being bereaved can be a lonely time, and isolation due to the current situation can make it more difficult. Talking with friends and family can be one of the most helpful ways to cope after someone close to us dies. It will be important to look after yourself as well as your children.

Cruse has a Freephone National Helpline 0808 808 1677 for anyone affected by bereavement.

The Childhood Bereavement Network has useful information about supporting bereaved children at this time.


Supporting Bereaved Children

Say it Simply: When talking about death or dying with children, use simple, clear, concrete language that is easy for them to understand. The child needs to hear that the person is ‘dead’, not ‘sleeping’ or have ‘passed’, there must be no ambiguity. By saying what has happened, with no confusion, we create an environment that is safe for the child to talk about this.

Make their world predictable: Creating a routine and a predictable environment for the child, helps to reduce uncertainty. Feeling more in control can help them to feel less anxiety and worries. Should the child go back to school/clubs/activities straightaway, or do we to create a new routine? Whatever the decision, children need to know what is expected from them and what are the boundaries.

Pick-me-up-prompt: The idea of pick-me-up is that at times of calm and happiness we can think of things that would help during moments of crisis. Help the child to think of things they could do to support themselves at times of distress, e.g. a breathing technique, a calming strategy or seeking support of an adult. Note down these ideas and give them to the child. If helpful they can keep them with them, to draw on at times of distress. Share these ideas with key adults. Revisit the prompts at a later date to check if they are still appropriate.

Accept Anger: Children feel guilty for feeling anger and think it is not OK to feel this way. Anger needs to be heard and not internalised. Explore anger at times of calm. Remember, anger is perfectly normal and we need to encourage children to accept it and explore it safely.

Generate Joy: Many children think that it is not OK to be happy during this difficult period and they may even feel guilty if feeling happy. Help them understand that it is OK to have all different kinds of feelings. Ask them if the loved one would want them to feel happy and joy. The answer is always yes.

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