Topics mentioned: girls' mental health, looking after yourself as a parent
About: We are delighted to announce that journalist and Channel 4 News presenter is now an official YoungMinds ambassador. We sat down with Cathy to chat about why the fight for young people’s mental health is important to her, her experience as a parent and why we need to do more for the mental health of young girls.
Becoming a YoungMinds ambassador
Why have you become a YoungMinds Ambassador?
I am passionate about improving young people’s mental wellbeing, and know what a toll mental health problems take on children and their families.
We’re constantly being told that the country faces a mental health crisis, yet still too little is being done to address it. I want to do what little I can to help get the subject onto the news agenda, and hopefully ensure that this generation and the next enjoys better mental health.
We all need to be prepared to talk so much more about mental health, but before we talk we need to listen.
You’ve blogged about the need to talk about girls’ mental health, in particular, as so many girls say adults don’t recognise the pressures they face. What do adults need to do to understand and support girls?
Many girls are crying out for help, but too few adults are prepared to tune in. Once adults become aware of a problem, they’ve got to move heaven and earth to intervene early. Nipping a problem in the bud can avert bigger difficulties further down the road. Looking after your children’s mental health is as important as taking care of their physical health.
Parenting and mental health
You’re a mother of two girls yourself. How do you try to build their resilience and wellbeing? Do you have any advice for other parents?
It’s really hard - parenting is the toughest job of all! I see what pressure children are under, particularly girls, to succeed, look great and be popular. My message to my two girls is that happiness and health are the most important things. Girls need to be less hard on themselves. I tell my daughters to be proud of themselves and I try and give them lots of praise. I wouldn’t presume to advise other parents. I find my job as a mum hard enough, so there’s no way I think I’ve got all the answers!
It’s important that we talk about the wellbeing of parents, as well as their children. How do you look after your own mental health, and where do you seek support when you need it?
I need to get more sleep, and I definitely push myself too hard to cram everything into my life. Occasionally I have a meltdown and try and get to bed a bit earlier to recharge, but it’s rarely before midnight. I’m very fortunate that my husband is brilliant at looking after me. We talk a lot, share our troubles over a lovely meal (cooked by him – I can’t use the cooker), so that’s the best tonic of all. That and watching a Sunday night drama – recently Poldark or Victoria have cheered us both up.
My message to my two girls is that happiness and health are the most important things.
You’ve talked about sexism in Westminster and the newspaper industry. People who are discriminated against can in particular face difficulties with their mental health. How did you maintain your resilience in those situations?
When I was just starting out in journalism I found it very difficult to overcome everyday setbacks, and I’d take things to heart too much. Now it’s (mostly) water off a duck’s back.
What advice would you give to a young person wishing to become a journalist?
Be persistent, be charming, network incessantly, and write down every mobile number you ever get. One day the man or woman making the tea could be prime minister. And if you’ve got their mobile number you’re one step ahead of the pack.
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