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"How are you?" Can be such a hard question to answer...

"How are you?"

This is the worse question to answer when you are feeling anxious or depressed. As a person who has struggled with depression since primary school, I know how hard it is to be asked. As a parent of a child who has had several mental health diagnoses, I know how important it is to know.

Being asked means that you are being pressured to answer at that time, using words which might not be easy to say or even accurate. It can be useful to have a scale so that the answer can be pre defined and simple.

When I was a teacher we were expected to ask each child how they felt that day. Whilst the idea made sense it was being modelled in a public and intrusive way. I knew that if there was a child who was feeling anxious or low, they really didn’t need to announce it to the class.

I made wellness tickets. Each week I printed out 5 tickets for each child with their name and the day of the week on it. Underneath was the numbers 1-5 for them to circle. 1 was sad or anxious, 3 was ok, and 5 was on top form. On the other side of the card they could tick a box if they wanted to talk to me at break time. This was a useful way of not only being able to find out how a child was on that particular day, but also to see if there were any patterns in how they were feeling.

At the same time I was being asked to keep a mood diary and a pain diary with my son. The forms I was given were very detailed and far too complicated for him to understand and follow, especially in two domains. I had to know how he was but it needed to be done at an appropriate level that was easy for him to identify.

I got him two models - one was of a head and the other a skeleton. I then made some coloured bands out of ribbon to use as a traffic light system. He loves all things transport and could relate to the traffic lights to feeling sad, feeling ok, and feeling happy. I also did having bad pain, having some pain or having no pain.

Twice a day he put a coloured band on each model and this gave a clear explanation of his mood and pain level. The findings of this were very useful as it influenced medication prescribing, not only showing baselines but also patterns at times of the day. The most beneficial thing was that he wasn’t being asked questions. He knew he just had to put the bands over the models which was much easier.

"How are you?" might seem the easiest of questions to ask, but not always to answer. Looking for different ways to get an answer can be the answer you need!

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