Supporting children’s visible differences and their mental health


Children’s Mental Health is imperative if we are to raise healthy and resourceful adults

Now is more important than ever to check in with our children and young people around us to really find out how they are – reiterating it’s ok, not to be ok. The teenage years can be especially difficult, but also the effects of trauma, parental influence, divorce, school, visible differences and social pressure will be felt by every single young person out there, and they may not have the emotional intelligence or the support to deal with this.

All of the issues outlined in this article are presented in males as well as females and we need to be aware that as adults and practitioners the importance of checking in with the emotional lives of boys, as much as we do for girls.

children's mental health

Alarmingly though, the statistics below show the rise in mental health from 2017-2020 and the impact it has had on both sexes:

  • Rates of probable mental disorders have increased since 2017.
  • In 2020, one in six (16.0%) children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder, increasing from one in nine (10.8%) in 2017
  • The increase was evident in both boys and girls
  • The likelihood of a probable mental disorder increased with age with a noticeable difference in gender for the older age group (17 to 22 years); 27.2% of young women and 13.3% of young men were identified as having a probable mental disorder

Publication, Part of Mental Health of Children and Young People Surveys Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020: Wave 1 follow up to the 2017 survey. Publication date: 22 Oct 2020


Some of the ways that this may present itself is through self-harming

Self-harm scarring in children needs to be dealt with by a specially trained professional as it is a physical response to a psychological issue. This is imperative as the first point of contact. Once this support is in place there are ways in which the visible scars can be handled. This is not instead of psychological help and is certainly not a way to stop people from noticing that it’s happening.

Therefore, Camouflage cream in my opinion should not be offered unless there is psychological help in place. Camouflage is a specifically designed cream to help cover scars and is a special mix of pigments that create a much more compact solution than makeup or concealer and can last 2-3 days on the torso and limbs, and up to 12 hours on the face.

A very small amount covers a large area, and with the correct colour and product choice, it can conceal a range of conditions. Nevertheless, camouflage cream cannot be used over open wounds so for a person that still has unhealed open scars, camouflage would be contraindicated.

Camouflage cream offers a choice

With Camouflage you can never remove the visible difference, but it does provide the choice of covering it up, which can take the pressure off, even if the choice is to not use it. Choice for some people can mean freedom and reduced anxiety.

Self-harm scarring on children is not something a Medical Tattooist can intervene with as they are not psychologically trained and are not allowed to tattoo anyone under the age of 18.

However, most of the people that look for a Medical Tattooist will be adults that previously self-harmed, have dealt with the underlying issues and now want to deal with the physical aspect of the scars. Practitioners need to be aware of this as a situation. There needs to be a referral system in place of a reputable practitioner that can handle this kind of situation.

Worth a Read: When ‘Doing Nothing’ is an option – Rae Denman

Furthermore, patients need a support system in place by making sure trustworthy friends, family members, a doctor or psychologist are aware they will be undergoing this kind of treatment. All the coping mechanisms need to be in place before treatment can start. (For more information on this please read my blog regarding Self Harm.)

This is an imperative part of any Medical Tattoo business as patient care must be first and foremost in every decision made.

Children's mental health

Stretch marks are another visible difference that can cause anxiety and distress in children

Stretch marks often happen during puberty when hormonal changes can cause a disruption in emotional stability, in an age group that are especially self-conscious. Having your body change so dramatically and then mark itself with either red/purple or white/silver stretchmarks can cause young people extreme anxiety. The ways this is holding young people back is by:

  • Not wearing clothes that show the areas of stretch marks, which will be more impactful in the summer, where they may not wear short sleeve tops, shorts or a swimsuit
  • Not getting involved in social situations in case they are noticed
  • Not having personal relationships again in case the stretch marks are noticed
  • Not playing much-loved sports because of the attire

This is an area that definitely needs more awareness and acceptance as many boys and girls get stretch marks, it is not something they can help, and to date there are no treatments that will get rid of them.

This is where camouflage for young people can prove to be the best option. It not only conceals the areas concerned but it is also very effective, safe and affordable. However as mentioned, it is temporary and needs to be applied daily.

Visible differences in young people, if they are causing concern, are best managed with emotional advice and psychological support. Once this is in place, the need to cover up the area or feel conscious of it can lessen to the point where it is no longer a problem and will prevent this escalating to a long-term mental health problem.


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