Two studies in two days have been published which allude to the fact that Britain’s children are not all that happy. According to Young Minds, @YoungMindsUK a mental health charity, over half a million of British children, under 16, are affected by depression or anxiety disorders. But fewer than 35 per cent receive the help they need.
The Times shows that this is a growing problem, with twice as many hospital admissions of young people with psychiatric disorders than four years ago. Yet only six per cent of the NHS mental health budget is spent on services for teenagers and children. Dr Kingsley, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, gives parents tips to promote children’s good mental health which include; reassurance, abandoning perfectionism, teaching children to be curious about their emotions and recognising that in boys depression can manifest as anger.
What is interesting is that the day this article was published (21/03/15) another article in the Sunday Telegraph talks about the reasons behind children’s growing emotional problems and depression.
Julia Lynn Evans, a child psychotherapist said she has seen a marked increase in the number of attempted suicides since she first saw children in the 1990’s. She believes this increase in self-harm is due to the availability and saturation of social media and inappropriate content freely available on smartphones which never seem to leave children’s sides. She has seen children as young as 12 commenting on the availability of inappropriate material.
Essentially there is no escape, no room to just sit and think and as Julia says ‘Children have no time for the good things in life – kindness, acceptance, nature, nurture.’ She also has advice for parents, to be an example, stop being so connected to technology and focus on your child. And when children feel they can’t cope and sink into depressive and mental health crises, there is nowhere for them to go. According Julie, this is due to the cuts in mental health and in particular the support for children’s mental health services.
So here’s the dilemma, 1) should we reduce children’s use of technology? 2) Do we continue to bang the drum for better mental health services for children, so that we can deal with the crisis technology is apparently causing, 3) or do we rally against the phone companies and internet providers to stop inappropriate material getting to the wrong people? I think all of these have merit and should be considered. The Times, who have brought this story to life, has started a campaign already, Child Mental Health – Time to Mind. They obviously feel that something has to be done.
We don’t have the answer, but it seems action is needed to stem the increase in child and adolescent mental health, so that our young children can grow into emotionally strong and capable adults. If you are reading this on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, why not share it on Twitter then spend some time away from your screen too!
-Written by Louise B.