In the UK, approximately 300,000 children and young people are known to experience a form of anxiety. There are notable increases in adolescent self-harm, reported cyberbullying and a significant rise in the number of young women with emotional difficulties. Overall, there has been a marked increase in the severity and complexity young people’s problems while children and adolescent mental health services have experienced a 25% cut in expenditure.
The Anna Freud National Centre For Children and Families (NCCF) have released an informative series of podcasts called “Child in Mind” which is suitable for both parents and professionals alike to listen to and covers problems such as ADHD, anxiety and more issues concerning children and young people.
Raising public awareness of children and young people’s mental wellbeing is critical and equally important is signposting services and where to get help. Contact me if you require help or further information.
To hear the podcasts, visit:- https://soundcloud.com/anna-freud-centre
What is disturbing is that the mental health of children appears to be so depressingly poor and prescribing of anti-depressants to children has significantly increased by GP’s. Research by Dr Ann John at Swansea University shows a 28% increase in prescribing of anti-depressants to children in Wales aged from six to 18, with girls being three times more likely to be prescribed than boys. Furthermore, some of this prescribing is being done beyond the limits of prescribing guidance and using anti-depressant medication that is not suitable for children, due to their toxic side effects. Research would no doubt reveal a similar prescribing pattern in England.
The question is however, whether this prescribing trend reflects an actual decline in children’s mental health with increased incidence of depression, or whether it is due to over-prescribing by GP’s creating medicalisation of normal teenage emotional development. Whatever the cause, training for GP’s and primary care workers is essential because future generations of children are at risk of growing up with a dependency, albeit psychological, on a host of toxic mood lifting drugs.
Counselling support for children and young people can easily prevent the use of potentially harmful drug therapies and normalise emotional turmoil, which is often a natural progression of childhood and teenage development.
Children’s counsellors who are qualified, experienced and trained specifically to counsel children and young people are able to provide specialist support for children in their emotional development. Children’s Counsellors at charities like Place2Be, deliver professional counselling in schools to children from primary age up to 18. They work closely with teachers and other professionals to provide essential support to children and young people. Any concerns about the welfare or mental health of a young person or child may be referred to a GP, who may in turn refer a child or young person to a children’s counsellor.
The use of anti-depressant therapies however, should be administered in the event of counselling therapies being ineffective, and only then with extreme caution and certainly within prescribing guidelines.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) can issue guidelines about the use of anti-depressant therapies.
There is clear evidence that nowadays our teenage daughters are growing up to be more miserable and unhappy and this is cause for serious concern. The reason is not because boys are growing up to feel much happier, but because of the longer term risks to girls’ mental health, especially the danger of developing eating disorders and depression.
The reason for girls’ unhappiness may be due to the fact that they spend much more time on social media which has been linked with a higher risk to mental health. Not only are girls more concerned about their appearance and looks, they are also more likely to feel under pressure by emotional bullying. Teenage girls are more likely to take dozens of selfies in an attempt to create a perfect ‘celebrity lookalike’ beautiful photo. They also fear missing out on something if they don’t engage in social media. Such gestures are often indicative of an underlying lack of confidence and an obsession with body image. They feel compelled to play out their social relationships by spending up three hours a night on social media, some obsessively posting images that they hope will make them appear to be perfect.
If this sounds like someone you know and you feel concerned about someone who is unhappy, you can help by advising the person to-
Limit their time spent on social media and ensure that it is being used in a safe way.
You can help boost body confidence by sharing with and talking to a young person.
Encourage them to develop their self-confidence and esteem by rewarding them for praise for kindness shown rather than just about appearance and looks.
The mental health of teenage girls, especially 14 year olds, has worsened according to a Cohort study recently published by The Department of Health. Teenage girls are more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety and over a third of teenage girls reported that they felt distressed, worthless, and unhappy and suffered from poor concentration.
The study reports that young people’s health and wellbeing is now slightly worse than it was in 2005 with girls faring less well than boys and with young people from relatively advantaged backgrounds being slightly more likely to exhibit social distress. Research shows that teenagers need on average, 9.5 hours sleep per night but only get 7.5 hours. Research also suggests that teenagers engaging in social media during the night could be damaging their sleep and increasing their risk of developing anxiety and depression. Girls tend to seek comfort on social media when worried and teens generally feel under pressure to make themselves available 24/7, suffering from anxiety if they do not respond to posts or texts. Girls especially feel more of a desire to be perfect and to avoid a ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) Hospital admissions for self-harm in the under 16’s have risen by an astonishing 52% with Head teachers in schools becoming worried.
In comparison with 2005, although girls’ mental health has worsened, teenagers are now more work focused, less likely to drink, smoke cigarettes, or engage in vandalism, graffiti or shoplifting.
Department of Health Longitudinal study of Young People in England. Cohort 2: Health and Wellbeing at Wave 2. Carli Lessof et al.