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Understanding mental wellbeing – for 11-18 year olds

Information for 11-18 year olds on understanding our mental wellbeing and how to look after it.

Understanding your mental wellbeing

People often talk about how important our mental health is, and how important it is to look after our wellbeing. We’re here to help you understand what mental wellbeing is and to help you look after yours.

Tips for looking after your wellbeing

Get practical tips

Stay safe

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, support is available for you to talk things through. You deserve help as soon as you need it.

To talk with someone confidentially about how you feel, you can:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, this is an emergency. You can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell an adult you trust and ask them to call 999 for help.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You aren't wasting anyone's time.

What is mental wellbeing?

Mental wellbeing can mean different things to different people. On this page we use 'mental wellbeing' to mean how you're feeling right now and how you’re coping with daily life.

Good mental wellbeing can include a whole range of emotions. Wellbeing can also include having ideas for coping with your emotions and feeling like you can manage okay.

Our wellbeing can change from moment to moment, day to day or month to month. Different people find different things harder or easier to cope with. Sometimes our wellbeing changes because of things that happen to us and sometimes it changes without a clear reason.

Our wellbeing can affect how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about others and how we feel about the things we face in our lives.

You might also hear the term mental health. For some people, they mean the same thing. For others, they mean slightly different things. You can find out more in our page on understanding mental health.

In our hectic lives, we sometimes forget to check in with ourselves. Therefore, we sometimes don't realise our wellbeing is suffering until we are struggling because of it.

Why is my wellbeing important?

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is as important as taking care of your physical wellbeing. Having good wellbeing can help you to:

Good wellbeing doesn't mean we feel good and happy all the time. It's normal to feel sad, angry or low sometimes. It’s normal to have lots of feelings at once. But if we have poor wellbeing for a long time, life can begin to feel harder overall.

Having a mental health problem can make it harder to look after our wellbeing. And struggling with our wellbeing can make it harder to cope with our mental and physical health. Taking care of ourselves now can support our mental and physical health in the future.

It’s important to take care of ourselves when things are going well and when things are hard. Taking time to look after ourselves isn’t always easy. But doing something regularly can improve our wellbeing. That might be every day, every week, or whatever works for you.

Take time for yourself. You don’t have to be all by yourself… so long as you take time to recollect your thoughts and understand the thoughts and feelings you have – Sabihah, 14

What is self-care?

There isn’t one definition of self-care and it can look like different things to different people. Self-care includes all the things we do to look after ourselves.

There’s not a specific thing that counts as self-care. It’s about trying to work out what you need. It’s whatever makes you feel good and like you’ve taken care of yourself.

To me, self-care is taking a step back from the stresses of life and other people’s problems... Self-care is being kind to myself and deciding what’s best for my wellbeing.

Some of us don’t always like the term ‘self-care’. You might feel like it’s not for you. Or you might hear people using it to talk about things you don’t like doing, can’t do or can’t afford. But lots of different groups use it to mean lots of different things.

One example is Black communities in the United States, especially Black LGBTQIA+ and disabled people and Black women. Many activists from these communities use self-care today, and have used it for a long time. It can be an important part of working for justice and equality.

It doesn’t matter what you call the ways you look after yourself. The important thing is to do what works for you.

Self-care is what you do to maintain or improve your wellbeing. It isn’t dependent on whether you're having a good day or bad but should be a regular thing. It’s doing things that make you feel good.

Although self-care is a decision to take care of ourselves, it can involve other people too. For example, taking care of yourself could look like asking a friend or family member for help. That even includes just asking them to spend time with you.

Self-care can be a way for us to improve and manage our mental wellbeing. You can see some ideas on our page about tips for looking after your wellbeing.

What can affect my wellbeing?

Everyone is different, so what affects your wellbeing may not be the same for somebody else. Some things might affect you at some times but not others. And it’s okay to find something difficult to manage, even if you weren’t expecting it to be hard.

Some things that might affect your wellbeing are:

  • Big events or changes in your life
  • Experiencing difficult things or seeing them happen to someone else
  • Your relationships with the people around you
  • The support you get at home, school, college or work
  • Feeling safe and having enough money and other things you need
  • Having opportunities to do what you want to do
  • Where you live
  • Your physical health
  • Events happening around you or in the world 
  • How other people treat you
  • Feeling represented in the world around you
  • Feeling like your voice is heard

You might be going through lots of things that are affecting your wellbeing. Or you might not be sure if there’s a reason for how it’s changed. And that's okay.

I try to support my mental health by going for a walk, playing netball, going out with me and my friends to have a chat… watch some TV and just chill in my bed.

Illustration White Hearts - for use in dynamic content blocks only

It’s not always easy to understand our wellbeing, and that's okay.

How can social media affect my wellbeing?

Social media apps or websites like Tiktok and Instagram can affect our wellbeing in good ways and in bad ways.

They can help us feel connected to other people, especially people like us or people who have similar interests. That can help us feel good. But we might also see content that is scary, upsetting or harmful to us.

You could think about how using social media is making you feel. Sometimes we don’t realise that what we’re seeing is affecting how we feel and our wellbeing. And it's important to make sure you’re staying safe online.

You could try some of these ideas to help look after yourself:

  • Find content you enjoy and that makes you feel good.
  • Unfollow, mute or block certain accounts or hashtags that you don’t want to see.
  • Set limits for how much you’re using social media or for the times you’ll use it.
  • Block and report someone that’s making you feel uncomfortable or upset. You can also tell a trusted adult like a teacher, parent or guardian what’s going on.
  • Think about what you feel okay sharing online and what you want to keep private or talk about in other ways.
  • Think about how you keep your information safe online. For more information, have a look at this Childline page on staying safe online.

You don't have to watch or talk about anything you don't want to. And you don’t have to be responsible for anyone else.

How can I look after my wellbeing?

Just like taking care of our physical health and wellbeing, there are ways to take care of our mental health and wellbeing.

Everyone has different ways of managing their wellbeing. You might already have some ideas of what you find helpful.

On our tips for improving your wellbeing page, we have information on:

  • Looking after your wellbeing right now
  • Looking after your wellbeing in the long term
  • How different challenges can affect wellbeing
  • Tips for dealing with challenges to wellbeing

Learn more about looking after your mental wellbeing

See wellbeing tips

How can others help me?

Spending time with other people can help us feel good about ourselves. It can help us look after our wellbeing. It can also help us improve it when it’s not so great.

Opening up to others means having a chance to talk about what’s going on in our lives. It means having a chance to feel supported. This can help with our wellbeing.

Our friends, family or partner(s) can also help us do things that are good for our wellbeing. That could be things like watching a film or going for a walk together.

You don’t have to cope with things on your own. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

No matter what people say, self-care isn't selfish. I've noticed that whenever I take self-care more seriously, it has a hugely positive impact on how I feel and act.

Stay safe

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, support is available for you to talk things through. You deserve help as soon as you need it.

To talk with someone confidentially about how you feel, you can:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, this is an emergency. You can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell an adult you trust and ask them to call 999 for help.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You aren't wasting anyone's time.

This information was published in November 2023. We will revise it in 2026.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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