It is a sad truth that rates of depression and anxiety are increasing amongst young and old alike, with 1 in 10 children and young people currently affected by a mental health disorder.

Research published in Psychology Today has suggested that this could be due to a new focus on ‘extrinsic’ goals, like financial gains, good looks, and other material gains, as a result of increased television and media influence. People have been led to believe, through advertising and other sources, that good looks, money, or popularity will lead to happiness, none of which can be controlled or influenced very substantially by the individual.

In the past 40 years, young peoples’ values and goals have changed significantly, but so have their perceptions about the control they have over their lives. Psychologists have found that a sense of control over your own personal circumstances can lead to more secure feelings of mental health, and this is where many people today are struggling. The answer could lie in something as simple as play: this same report has found a direct link between free play and mental health.


The Link Between Play and Mental Health

The decline of free play, where children are able to explore, play independently, and learn to solve their own problems, has decreased in line with the increase in depression and anxiety levels. Children are therefore not learning to gain control over their own lives and are continually relying on adult guidance and direction.

Learning to have control over our own lives is fundamental to feeling secure in our minds, and this research has shown that free play directly influences how a child develops. Despite what we may feel about protecting our children and guiding them in the right direction, there is evidence to suggest that letting them figure things out for themselves is likely to be more beneficial in the long run.


Play for Young and Old Alike

Mental health issues, like anxiety and depression in both children and adults can be improved by something as simple as play and social interaction. In Richmond, there are a number of organisations and groups that can help provide your children with the opportunity to join in with play or play therapy, and for adults to join activities and social events.

More information on the benefits of play for adults can be found at


Support and Therapy in Richmond

Richmond has a number of services which offer play and play therapy for children, and others which offer activities and social groups for adults. Some of the main services are listed below: allows access to a variety of services, not just play and social therapy. It provides links to websites, addresses, activity timetables, contact information, and advice on things like managing money, managing mental health, and staying fit and active. is an international resource for play therapy, giving information on what play therapy is, where you can access it, and resources that you can use at home. is run locally, based in East Sussex. – Togetherasone is for adults looking for activities which will let them meet new people and try new things. The activities they offer are for anyone who is suffering from loneliness or social isolation, which particularly focuses on those with mental health issues.

Richmond Borough Mind – Mind is the UK’s biggest mental health charity, and this website directs you to services specifically in the Richmond area.

NHS Mental Health Services: CAMHS – If you are particularly concerned about your child’s mental health, you can contact the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service on 020 8547 5008.

Services for children and adults alike can be found at the Richmond Wellbeing Service, 020 8547 5008.

Young or old, mental health problems can affect anyone at any time. There is support available whatever your concerns, all of which are non-judgmental and will help you deal with problems big and small. All mental health concerns can be discussed with your GP who can then advise on the next step, or point you in the direction of the most appropriate support services.