An article today in The Times, Young and desperate, takes a wide ranging look at the experience of depression and anxiety that affects many British young people.
It quotes Alexandra Massey, author of Happy Kids, a new book on childhood depression,
The figures on child mental health demonstrate that children are unhappy more than ever before, but no one organisation or authority can pinpoint the reasons why. It’s mystifying and worrying because these children are the next generation of adults who will lead the world into a new age.
Among the various pressures identified are the regular suspects of family breakdown, changes of school or moving to a new area, but new stresses have emerged, including the almost relentless academic demands that young people now face, and pressure from the media about the way they look. As Anna, 15, said,
There is a lot of emphasis in youth culture on having a great time, partying, everything being ‘wicked’. It sounds like a very liberal, anything goes culture but it’s not. You are expected to conform and to have that ‘great time’, or you’re nowhere.”
The article reveals no simple formula to attempt to identify a root cause, and no simple solutions either. The main underlying theme is the suspicion that childhood anxiety has been with us for a long time, it’s that now we have more pressures triggering depression in young people and we’re better at acknowledging it
It’s clear that in the last few years approaches to diagnosis and support have changed dramatically, and for the better. And there are a few “buffers” that can help protect young people from potential pressures including a functional family, friends, recreation, adventure, creativity and sleep. Recreation, adventure and creativity would seem to be obvious areas where we could perhaps make a little difference. I hope we can.
Useful Link: Young Minds – a charity committed to improving the mental health of children and young people.