Being healthy is important for all young people. Being healthy covers things like what you eat, what exercise you do and being confident and happy. It is also important that you know when and how to seek help or advice from professionals if you are feeling unwell or worried about your health.
Everyone has a unique body and all young people will have questions at some time or another about their aches and pains, whether things are working properly or not or if their bits and pieces are ‘normal’! It is also natural that as you become a teenager you will have questions around your development and sexual health. Any questions you will be able to discuss with someone you trust like your carers, key worker or social worker.
You will meet with a doctor/nurse or sometimes a school nurse for your health assessment to discuss your health. The assessment should be about how you are feeling, the things you can do to be healthy and any problems you have or things you are worried about.
It should include whether you have been to a dentist and whether you need your height and weight, eyes or hearing checked. It might include things about smoking, alcohol and other drugs, sexual health, caring for your skin, hair and help or treatment with any
Why do I need a health assessment?
You have the right to good health care to help you to stay healthy and feel good. Therefore while you are being looked after, we aim to ensure that your health needs are met. To help us do this when you first become looked after you should have a health assessment with a community paediatrician.
Then once a year you should have a further health check with your school nurse/health visitor or a doctor (twice a year for children under five years old). Your health assessment is there to help you stay fit and well, so there is no need to worry about it.
Where will my health assessment take place?
Your health assessments may take place at the child development centre, your local clinic, at home or at school. You can be seen with your carer or other trusted adult or you can speak to the doctor/nurse on your own. You may also be asked to sign to give your consent to the health assessment.
How long will my health assessment take?
The health assessment should take about one hour depending on your individual health needs.
What will happen after my health assessment?
A health plan will be written with you to ensure all your health needs are identified, how they will be met and by whom. The health plan will be discussed at your review and shared with your social worker, carers, GP and maybe your birth parents. This will be discussed with you first.
Your health plan will be reviewed at your review health assessment by a school nurse, health visitor or doctor, after 12 months (6 months for children under 5 years old) or at any time, if your health needs change in any way whilst you are looked after.
Puberty is when your brain begins to release hormones through your bloodstream, which give your body instructions to develop into adulthood. As well as physical changes, these hormones might also have an effect on your moods or your emotions. If things ever get out of hand, try talking to your carers or social worker. Everyone goes through puberty, so someone will understand what you’re going through.
What will happen to me during puberty?
Boys usually begin puberty between 10 and 15. During this time, boys voices will deepen as their Adams apple develops, they’ll become more muscular and eventually start growing facial hair. The reproductive organs will also begin to develop in size.
For girls, puberty can start anytime between the ages of 8 and 16. Once it begins, girls bodies gain slight weight around the hips and the breasts start to develop. Hormones also begin targeting your reproductive organs and soon after your periods start (otherwise known as your menstrual cycle).
What are periods?
There’s no right or wrong age for them to begin. Some begin at 8, while others start at 16 or 17, so don’t worry if everyone’s had theirs before you.
During the menstrual cycle, which happens every month, a tiny egg leaves one of the two ovaries (a process called ovulation) and travels down one of the fallopian tubes toward the uterus. In the days before ovulation, the hormone oestrogen stimulates the uterus to build up its lining with extra blood and tissue, making the walls of the uterus thick and cushioned.
If the egg isn't fertilised (which is the case most of the time) it doesn't attach to the wall of the uterus. When this happens, the uterus sheds the extra tissue lining. The blood, tissue, and unfertilised egg leave the uterus, going through the vagina on the way out of the body. This is a menstrual period, and lasts about 5 to 7 days.
Puberty causes all kinds of changes in your body and you may need to change the way you keep yourself clean and take care of your body. Your skin and scalp may suddenly get greasy. Sometimes, you seem to sweat for no reason and you may notice new smells from your body.
Things to remember
- the best way to keep unpleasant smells away is to wash every day using a mild soap and warm water. This will help wash away any bacteria
- wear clean clothes, socks, and underwear each day to help you feel clean
- always wash your hands after you have been to the toilet and before you eat
- brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day
Relationships can be full of fun, romance, excitement and intense feelings, but they can also be confusing, painful and infuriating too. It’s pretty rare for people to meet someone for the first time, go out with them, marry them and live happily ever after. Everyone is different and relationships often develop over a long time, as two people get to know each other.
It is really normal for relationships to go a bit wrong or not work out particularly when you’re young and still learning about who you are, what you like and how to be in a relationship. That doesn’t make you a failure and there’s always a lot to learn from every relationship. Don’t forget if you need help or support you can always talk to your carer, key worker or social worker.
Top tips for a healthy relationship:
- separate identities
- fairness and equality
- good communication
What does an unhealthy relationship look like?
Not all relationships are healthy. Qualities like kindness and respect are must haves for a healthy relationship and if someone you’re in a relationship or friendship with is making you feel bad, you need to change things. A relationship is unhealthy when it involves someone being mean to you, or trying to control you, or disrespecting you or abusing you.
If your partner or friend starts using mean language, nasty putdowns, gets physical by hitting or slapping, or forces you into sexual activity. You must talk to your carer, key worker or social worker, so that they can help you.
A relationship is unhealthy if your partner or friend:
- gets angry when you don’t drop everything for them
- criticises the way you look or dress, and say you’ll never be able to find anyone else who would be friends with or date you
- keeps you from seeing other friends or from talking to any other boys or girls
- wants you to quit an activity, even though you love it
- ever raises a hand when angry, like he or she is about to hit you
- tries to force you to do something you don’t want to do
Your sexual health is important because it can have an effect on many other parts of your life. You don’t have to have sex, it’s always your choice. Even if your friends are saying you should, you don’t have too. If you don’t feel 100% ready yet, you don’t have to have sex. If you have had sex before, but don’t want to have it again, you don’t have to. It is always your choice! Don’t let anyone put you under pressure to have sex and always say no if you don’t feel ready. If you want to talk to someone about having sex for the first time, call Ask Brook on 0808 802 1234 - your call will be confidential (that means they won’t tell anyone about your call).
Using contraception, like condoms, can help protect you against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (also known as STIs). The thing about sex and relationships is that everyone is different and the important thing is that you’re happy with the choices you’re making. Nobody has the right to force you to do anything and you need to develop the skills and confidence to make sure that you are only having the sex that you want, when you want it and sex that doesn’t harm you or your partner.
If you feel like you are ready to have sex it is important to use contraceptive. Using a condom during sex can help stop you getting an infection, but it can also help reduce the chances of you getting pregnant. The contraceptive pill is also a popular method of contraception among women, but it gives you absolutely no protection against infection, so always use a condom.
Sex and the law
As a young person, you have rights and responsibilities when it comes to sex. The age at which it is legal to have sex is called the age of consent. In the UK the age of consent is 16 years old for everyone, whether they want to have sex with someone of the same or opposite sex. The age of consent law was designed to protect young people from harm rather than to prosecute them.
What should I do if I need contraception?
All contraception is free on the NHS in the UK. If you’re not sure which type of contraception you want to use, it’s a good idea to talk it through with someone you trust.
You can pick up free contraception and get confidential advice on which method might be right for you from:
- Contraception and Sexual Health Services (CASH Clinic)
- family planning clinic
- your GP
- another GP (if you don’t want to go to your GP)
- your carer
- looked after nurse
- school nurse
- another young people’s service for example places like youth clubs offer information and advice about contraception and sexual health, they may also supply you with free contraception
Don’t forget if you need help or support you can always talk to your carer, key worker or social worker.
The legal age to drink is 18 years old. If you’re over 18 then this means you can walk into any bar, pub or club and order whatever drink you want. If however, you’re under the legal age then you can’t buy alcoholic drinks in a pub, corner shop, supermarket or any other store. If any shop sells you alcohol knowing you’re under 18, they are breaking the law. It’s also illegal for someone over 18 to buy alcohol on your behalf.
If you need help or support, you can always talk to your carer, key worker or social worker.
If you’re not a smoker but have thought about it, you shouldn’t start. Smoking can be hard to quit and you might think it looks cool or good but it doesn’t. It stains your teeth with a yellowish-brown colour. It gives you bad breath and could lead to death. It’s also very expensive. When tobacco is smoked or chewed, nicotine goes into the bloodstream. It goes from the bloodstream straight to the brain in seconds. The nicotine is what our bodies become addicted to.
Nicotine is a stimulant so speeds up the nervous system and can make you feel like you have more energy. It also makes the heart beat faster and raises blood pressure. However when the effects wear off it can make you feel moody and you reach for more tobacco. So the addiction starts! According to experts, the younger you are when you start smoking, the more likely you are to become strongly addicted. If you need help or support, you can always talk to your carer, key worker or social worker.
Drugs are illegal and can be incredibly unpredictable. The effects that drugs can have on you vary wildly from one person to another. Some drugs come in pill or tablet form, which are usually swallowed; some come in a powder form which can be snorted, smoked or injected, and some are in a herb or resin form which is usually smoked. You can also never guarantee that a drug contains what you think it will contain.
Depending on the drug, the effects vary greatly but most give the user a ‘high’, and it is this high that can become addictive. However, after every high there is a come-down and they can be very unpleasant. Drugs can also lead to life threatening illnesses and death.
There are many reasons that you might begin taking drugs. The most common reason is peer pressure. You might find that if your friends take drugs they will put you under pressure to do the same. If this is the case then they are not good friends to have because they are trying to make you do something that is bad for you and that you don’t want to do.
FRANK offers confidential, non-judgmental drugs advice, information and support about legal and illegal substances. The helpline is open to people of all ages. You can now text FRANK anytime with a drugs-related question. It’s completely confidential and you’ll receive a reply from a trained expert. Text your question to 82111.
There are some common questions that the FRANK helpline deals with all the time. Cannabis and cocaine are the most asked about drugs to the FRANK help lines. Visit www.talktofrank.com if you want more information.
If you need help or support, you can always talk to your carer, key worker or social worker.
Just like physical health (catching a cold or the flu) needing help with your emotional well being is something everyone is going to need at some time in their lives. This is nothing to be embarrassed about. Emotional well being problems can cover lots of different feelings and problems from feeling depressed to other problems where you might need more support and help.
Remember, there are always people you can talk to if you need help. You could tell your carers, key worker, social worker, teacher or someone else you trust. Asking for help and support is often the hardest step but remember there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. People offering support will not judge you, they are there to support you.
If you feel you’re not being listened to don’t give up – seek alternative support from your doctor (GP), counsellor, helplines, friend, teacher or family member. It’s your right to be listened to and supported.
Being aware of mental health
Everyone gets depressed at sometime and this is not something to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, people sometimes feel depressed about something long after it is happened. There is not a time when an event suddenly stops having an effect on someone, so there is no reason to feel like you should have ‘gotten over it.’ You may feel depressed for reasons not linked to an event for example if you are under a lot of stress, or depression can run in families sometimes. There are different types of depression, however if you are feeling depressed for long periods of time you may want to talk to someone like your social worker, key worker or your carer.
Self harm covers a wide range of things that people do to themselves in a deliberate and usually hidden way that could cause harm. This includes things like; drinking, smoking, addiction and taking excessive risks and self injury.
Self-harm is often a way of coping with painful and difficult feelings and distress. Someone may harm themselves because they feel overwhelmed and don’t know how else to deal with things. It’s usually a very private issue and can have different motivation and reasons from person to person.
Sometimes it can help to find things that can help distract you or to cope with how your feeling. This could include drawing, writing, listening to music, or maybe just creating a box with things inside that make you feel better.
Self injury is a deliberate, intentional injury to your own body that can cause death, damage or leaves marks. This is done to cope with an overwhelming or distressing situation (and in some cases can lead to death).
If you are worried about yourself or a friend please speak to a worker or someone you trust.
You can go to a NHS Walk-in Centre, even if you have your own normal GP. Many universities run their own health service too, which makes it easier if you’re far from home.
Some GPs even run special clinics for young people. Even if you are under 16 years old, everything you talk to your GP about is kept totally confidential.
In an emergency, always call 999.