The mental health crisis among children and young people in the UK has been a growing concern in recent years, with increasing numbers of young people struggling with mental health issues.
According to the Children's Commissioner for England, an estimated 1 in 6 children in England have a mental health problem.
A report by the Education Policy Institute found that the average waiting time for a child to receive mental health treatment in England is 22 weeks, which is nearly double the government's target of 12 weeks.
Referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) have increased by 60% between 2010/11 and 2019/20, according to data from NHS Digital.
The number of children and young people being admitted to hospital for self-harm has increased by 68% in the past decade, according to a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The suicide rate among young people in the UK is also a concern, with suicide being the leading cause of death among young people aged 5-19 in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.
These statistics highlight the urgent need for greater support and resources to address the mental health crisis among children and young people in the UK.
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
We know that one of the most successful ways to reduce mental health issues is early intervention: Providing early intervention and prevention services can help address mental health issues before they become more severe.
So how can our work at Stable and Wild help children who are struggling with mental health issues?
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Spending time with animals or outdoor in nature can help reduce stress and anxiety in children.
A study published in the Journal of Childhood and Psychiatric Nursing found that AAT ( animal assisted therapy) improved mood and reduced depressive symptoms in children.
Animals are non-judgemental and offer unconditional support which can create a safe and calming environment for children.
Improve Social Skills
Children with conditions such as autism may struggle with social skills. Animals can help by encouraging children to engage in social interactions, practice empathy and emotional regulation. Thus, giving them the confidence to interact with others in a way that feels comfortable for them.
At Stable and Wild we spend most of our time outside with the animals. Observing their interaction, caring for them and learning to communicate with them. This sense of responsibility and accomplishment can really help a young person to feel better about themselves and more confident in their own ability.
Time spent outside and with animals can increase “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, such as oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins which can help alleviate depressive symptoms and enhance mood.
A study published by the Journal of Attention Disorders found that AAT improved attention and reduced hyperactivity in children with ADHD
Improved Physical Health
AAT can improve physical health by encouraging children to engage in physical activity, such as a walk to collect a horse from the field or carrying a water bucket to a thirsty sheep.
We often have reports of young people who won’t leave their bedrooms or lay in bed for most of the day refusing to engage with the outside world. At Stable and Wild we rarely see that side of a young person once they start attending. They have a purpose to fulfil, are driven to consider the needs of the animals above their own and often don’t stop to think about the weather, the physical activity or their own fears.
Using techniques in transferable learning and self reflection this experiential learning environment can be so effective in making a young person feel empowered, in control of their life and motivated to achieve things for themselves and not because others tell them to.