Make it Count: Guide for pupils

This guide is for children and young people, It has some advice on how to keep yourself mentally healthy. Staying mentally healthy is just as important as staying physically healthy.

It's important that we try to look after our mental health every day. This guide will give you some great tips for how to do that. It will also give you tips on what to do if times get difficult.

What is mental health?

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. Being mentally healthy means that: 

  • we feel good about ourselves
  • we can make and keep positive relationships with others
  • we feel able to manage our feelings rather than feeling overwhelmed by them
  • we have interests or hobbies that we enjoy
  • we feel hopeful and positive about the future. 

Good mental health helps us to cope with life’s ups and downs. Sometimes it's best to ask for support from others if we need it.

Mental health spectrum

Mental health and mental illness are part of a scale or ‘spectrum’ just as physical health and illness are. Many things can lead us to move up and down the spectrum at different times of our life.

Some things that might harm our mental health are: 

  • having friendship difficulties such as lots of arguments
  • feeling under pressure at school, like during exams
  • feeling worried about the health of a friend or family member
  • being bullied – in person or online. 

Some things that might protect and improve our mental health are: 

  • having a close friend you trust, or a supportive group of friends
  • having a teacher or other staff member at school you can go to if you need help
  • enjoying time at home with your family
  • having hobbies or interests you enjoy taking part in
  • eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep.  

It is important to remember that, just as our mental health can suffer during difficult times in our life, it can also recover.  

Tips for how to look after your mental health

Here is some advice on what you can do every day to help look after your mental health. There are also some extra tips for what to do if times get tough.

Day to day

There are some things that we can all do which have been shown in research to help keep our minds healthy – they are called the five ways to wellbeing and are described here:

When times get tough

Remember that it is normal to go up and down the spectrum of mental health at different times in our lives. Here are some things you can do to support yourself when things get tough: 

Try writing down how you feel

Some young people find keep a 'mood diary' helpful to record how they feel on different days and identify any patterns which might explain what is upsetting them. 

Reach out to others who are struggling

If you know that someone else in your friendship group is also finding things difficult, reach out to them and see if you can support each other. Helping someone else can help you feel better too. 

Be kind to yourself

When times are hard, it’s important to be extra kind to yourself, just as you would be kind to a friend in need. Think about what you might find comforting – reading a favourite book, playing your favourite music, watching a film you enjoy with a friend or parent/carer, going for a walk to clear your head. 

Speak to someone you trust

One of the most important things you can do is to speak to someone rather than ‘bottling up’ your feelings inside yourself. Choose a close friend, family member or a teacher or other school staff member to share your worries with.

Ask for help

If you continue to struggle, and especially if you have any thoughts about hurting yourself, speak to a member of school staff or ask your parent/carer to book a GP appointment for you.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone directly, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or Childline on 0800 1111. Remember there shouldn’t be any shame in asking for help, in fact it’s a sign of courage.

Find out more

Use the resources below to find out more about mental health and wellbeing:  

Our A-Z guide is a useful overview of key mental health topics.

Young Minds provide useful information for young people and their parents about mental health, seeking treatment and the mental health system.

Childline have lots of advice about managing different feelings as well as their phoneline which is open 24 hours a day.

Kooth provide counselling support both face to face and online.

Mind have a whole range of information and support information for children and parents on their website.