Emotional Wellbeing

Being You logo
Being You characterContrary to belief, mental health problems and mental health needs are not the same thing. Mental health needs are much more than just the absence of a mental illness. It is about physical and emotional wellbeing, and about having the strength and capacity to live full and creative lives.

Whilst all young people have mental health needs, one in five have mental health problems (The Mental Health Foundation 1999) and as many as one in 10 young people in England, Scotland and Wales will have a diagnosed mental health disorder. This means that in an average secondary school with 1,000 pupils, as many as 50 will be depressed, between 10 and 20 will be anxious, and between 5 and 10 will have an eating disorder (MIND 1999). It is very important to be clear what we mean by mental illness. Most young people can cope adequately with their lives on a daily-weekly basis. However, there are times when negative feelings can affect how they think and feel.

These feelings are part of everyday living. However, they can sometimes get on top of us, to the point where it is very difficult to function in everyday life. For example, difficulties with concentrating, completion of work, friendship difficulties and arguments, general feelings of being unhappy with yourself and not feeling that you can think clearly as you may have been able to do in the past. It is when these difficulties begin to mount that it may be an indication of a mental health problem. It can be mild or severe and some get better quickly but sometimes they last for a long time and specialist input is needed to help.

The word ‘mental illness’ refers to the extreme end of these difficulties when some people, at different times of their lives, become very confused and out of touch with reality as they can barely cope with everyday living.

There are no clearly defined reasons as to why people become mentally ill. There are many theories ranging from chemical imbalances in the brain to a traumatic incident happening within their life, e.g. death of someone close. Generally, a mental illness does not normally start out of the blue, it usually develops slowly. However, there are occasions when there is a sudden onset of a mental health difficulty, such as when someone develops a psychotic illness.

It is impossible to say how long a mental illness can last as it depends on the individual and the circumstances as to why the mental illness developed. It also depends on the support networks around the young person and how those services are supporting them to overcome their difficulties.

There are many different types of mental health difficulties and these include:


Psychosis can be a serious mental illness. This is because not all psychosis is long-lasting or debilitating. Psychosis means that the person has lost touch with reality and cannot tell the difference between what is real and unreal. The different forms of psychotic illness include schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.

Someone with schizophrenia may have some of the following symptoms: delusions, believing something is real when it isn’t, thought disorder  (which means their thoughts become very muddled and hard for anyone else to understand), and hallucinations (hearing, seeing or smelling something that really isn’t there).

People who have bipolar affective disorder suffer from extreme changes of mood and people who have this disorder can switch from being very manic to being very depressed.

Anxiety disorder

Being You characterAnxiety disorder is when someone becomes so overwhelmed by their fears and thoughts that they can develop difficulties such as phobias, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Clinical depression

Depression is an extreme difference from normal feelings of sadness and low mood. Depression is when sadness is persistent over a period of time and there are additional difficulties including disturbed sleep, low self-esteem, low appetite, and guilt or self-blame. There are a number of different symptoms, which are often as a result of an underlying depression, and appropriate support should be sought.


Self-harm is an expression of personal distress, usually made in private, by individuals who hurt themselves. The nature and meaning of self-harm, however, varies greatly from person to person and in addition, the reason the person harms themselves may be different on each occasion.

Types of self-harming include scratching, scraping or picking, cutting, burning/scalding, excessive piercing, tattoos, over-eating and under-eating.

It is estimated that one in 10 teenagers self-harm and that every hour, two young people will self-harm.


The above are only a few different types of mental illnesses. You may be suffering with any of the above, or starting to feel like life is becoming too much and you’re feeling emotionally low.

The first option for seeking help could be accessing your family doctor, who can make an assessment of need and hopefully signpost you on to the right professional agency to support you.

Being You characterPeople who your doctor may refer you onto are the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (see ‘Seeking Support’ below). This is a service made up of several different professional practitioners, e.g. psychiatrists, advanced nurse specialists, primary mental health workers and psychologists. They will be able to make an assessment of your difficulties and hopefully offer the appropriate input.

The input may consist of individual therapy, family therapy or even medication if the mental illness is at an extreme phase and disabling you from being able to access therapy being offered.

There are certain things that you can do to promote positive mental health within yourself, and these include regular exercise of at least 10 minutes every day (exercise releases the body’s natural endorphins which have been proven to make you feel better and thus helping you overcome any minor mental health difficulty you may be experiencing); healthy eating; and good sleeping patterns of at least 7-8 hours uninterrupted sleep a night.

If your body is well-fed, watered and rested then it can help your energy reserves to try and overcome the emotional difficulties currently being faced. If you are feeling low in mood, sad or a little stressed-out think of someone who you like and trust who you might be able to talk to. This may be a friend or a youth worker, teacher or a parent. If they can’t help you they may be able to signpost you on to someone who can. Remember, it’s important that you do not suffer in silence as this can only make difficulties worse and may make a brief episode of mental illness a more substantial one.

Being You

The Being You toolkit is a teaching aid which provides focused activities related to young people’s mental wellbeing. All the activities are linked to the Portsmouth PSHE Programme of Study and are linked into the national curriculum, meeting specific objectives in English, science, maths, ICT, sport and leisure and PSHE. Contact Sorted on 023 9284 1560 for details on how to obtain the Being You toolkit.

Seeking support

If you feel able to contact someone directly yourself, the following is a list of agencies that can provide emotional and mental health support:

Solent Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are specialist services that provide assessment, treatment and support to young people with emotional, behavioural and mental health difficulties. Solent CAMHS covers the Portsmouth and Southampton areas. Telephone 02392 684700. GP out-of-hours 0300 300 2012.

Drop-in Clinics
Currently being run on Thursdays 5.00pm – 7.00pm at:

Somerstown Central Hub, Housing Office, entrance from Rivers Street or Tyseley Road, Southsea, Portsmouth PO5 4EY

Off the Record

Free and confidential counselling and support for young people aged 11–25. Telephone: Portsmouth 023 9281   5322, Havant 023 9247 4724

Young Minds 

Offering support to young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties or have family members experiencing mental health difficulties.


Parent helpline – 0808 802 5544


ChildLine is a free 24-hour counselling service for children and young people in the UK up to 19 years of age, providing confidential telephone counselling services for any young person with any problems.


Freephone: 0800 1111 (24-hour service).


Confidential information and advice for anyone concerned by their own or someone else’s drug or solvent misuse. Free phone 0800 776600 (24-hour service)

Bullying UK

Get advice and support whenever you need it around bullying. Visit the website (www.bullying.co.uk) or call the Helpline (0808 800 2222).


A confidential, 24-hour emotional support service for any person in distress, crisis or at risk of suicide. UK Helpline 08457 909090 (24 hours a day).

CRUSE Bereavement Care

CRUSE Young Helpline for young people aged 12–18.

Contact: 0808 8081677.

Offers counselling, information and advice to anyone who has been bereaved and those who care for them.