Teenage time-bomb: Why are our teens struggling with their mental health?

The Terrace head in handsIt has always been tough to be a teenager – it is a rite of passage; a period when wanting to be treated as an adult combines with the vulnerabilities of childhood to make an often confusing mix of emotions. But are 21st century pressures increasing the risks of long-term health issues?

News today suggests that a Department of Education survey of pupils  aged 14 and 15 has found that more than one in three of the teenage girls report symptoms of anxiety and depression. This equates to a rise of 10% over the past ten years and as such is clearly a major concern for parents, educators and society as a whole.

Girls reported  considerably higher levels of psychological distress than the boys – 37% having three or more symptoms compared to just 15%, and in boys the percentage has fallen since 2005.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Nick Harrop, of charity YoungMinds, who believes it has much to do with the way in which 21st century life impacts on young women:

“Teenage girls today face a huge range of pressures. Stress at school, body image worries, early sexualisation, bullying on and offline and uncertainty about the future after school are all piling on the stress,” he tells me. “Social media also puts pressure on girls to live their lives in the public domain, to present a personal ‘brand’ from a young age, and to seek reassurance in the form of likes and shares.”

Certainly, the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and the other image based social media channels has created more ways to challenge a girl’s image of herself compared to her peers, and sadly, to the photoshopped images of models and celebrites. Girls report issues with eating, with concentration and with anxiety, as they are constantly made aware of the importance of appearance in the media. Too little emphasis seems to be put on successful career women, perhaps, rather than those who model or walk the red carpet.

But others, such as former mental health tsar  Natasha Devon  think it is more to do with the kind of lives young people have to lead now, as parents work longer hours and success in life appears driven by higher salaries and working harder than ever to buy  those things, such as a home, that previous generations took for granted. In addition, all those subjects that supported good mental health are squeezed in the recent changes to the curriculum – music, art, sports and drama often provided a balance to the more academic subjects in which a young person felt more pressurised. Interestingly, those from a more affluent background were more likely to feel worried about achieving less than their parents hoped for them.

But Natasha Devon thinks the only difference between the sexes is how they deal with their mental health problems. She is quoted as saying:

“At an adult level, women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which makes them look like primarily female issues. But men are more likely to seek help for substance abuse and are far more likely to take their own lives. It suggests to me women seek help for anxiety and depression but men self-medicate and tend to wait before they reach crisis point.”

This tends to suggest that where girls might be more ready to seek help, in the longer term it is boys who need greater support.

So what can be done? Here at The Terrace we have a number of therapists skilled in working with children and young adults, and we know how complex an issue this is. A good place to start would be in schools, where changes in behaviour can be noticed early and elements put in place during the school day to support self-confidence and self-esteem.

What do you think would be a good first step?  We would love to hear your views on what could be a proverbial ‘time bomb’, as a generation struggles to come to terms with the every-increasing and pressurised pace of 21st century life.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other, by William Stafford

As it is summer, and many of us are still finding time for relaxation – in the sun at last perhaps – we thought we would post another poem, this time by William Stafford, again read by David J Beauman. It is a terrific piece, called ‘A Ritual to Read to Each Other‘ and on reading it you may find it hard to fathom the meaning at first. Perhaps the only meaning is the one it has for you anyway.

However, when it comes to working at relationships – and couples counselling is something we believe we excel at here at The Terrace – those last two lines seem particularly apposite:

the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep

Is it about knowing ourselves, and then we can better know others? Or perhaps it is about making sure you should be clear in your messages to others, to ensure you get to know the real other, and they know the real you….?

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts!

The Dad Poet

Poems for Stuart, Part 3

stuart and davidI mentioned in the previous two parts of this series that my dear friend Stuart came to America this summer to visit with his son. What a blessing to me that on the way to Andrew Lloyd Wight’s “Falling Water,” they took the time to divert slightly north and meet me at a restaurant in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. There we had a lovely time over food and drink in an outdoor cafe on the sidewalk. It wasn’t part of the original plan to meet at a restaurant where I once worked, but such are the serendipities of life.

After dinner, we went to the river to fulfill a small side-goal of the visit. Stu had asked if during our time together this day, he could record me reading a poem that was meaningful to this period of my life, and so I came “prepared.” As it’s…

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More poetry for Mindfulness – Horses at Midnight without a Moon – by Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

In the next few weeks we are migrating this blog over to our new website, so we have kept posts to a minimum. But as we head into our summer breaks  we are looking forward to taking time out, relaxing and working to ensure our energy levels are topped up for our autumn schedule.

To that end we thought we should address some of the issues we are facing at the moment, as human beings in a world that seems to present us with a new challenge, a new doubt or anxiety each day. David J Beauman, who blogs at the terrific The Dad Poet, posted a poem last week to offer some solace in these difficult times and we agree with him, this one is a poem to encourage mindfulness. We have written on the subject and posted poems previously and many people have enjoyed the opportunity to find words that support them after they have taken the first steps to mindfulness Take a breath, learn to be at peace with the world and enjoy those things immediately around you. It isn’t easy and it requires dedicated practice, something many of us find difficult in a world where the expectation is increasingly immediate gratification and instant fixes. But there is beauty in the smallest things and the most unlikely situations.

David J Beauman reads the poem here, with the full text available HERE and below :

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

From Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert. Copyright © 2012

To find out more about mindfulness at The Terrace, see our website HERE 


Here we re-blog a piece posted by Dr Bill Wooten, in which he quotes David Whyte on honesty. It is a very powerful piece – those final lines “Honesty is not protection; honesty is not a weapon to keep loss and heartbreak at bay, honesty is the outer diagnostic of our ability to come to ground in reality, the hardest attainable ground of all, the place where we actually dwell, the living, breathing frontier where we are given no choice between gain or loss” are especially challenging. We are interested in knowing your thoughts on this philosophy, and how important you feel total honesty is, and how best to use it for positive discoveries….

Dr Bill Wooten

“Honesty is reached by the doorway of grief and loss. Where we cannot go in our mind, our memory, or our body is where we cannot be straight with another, our world, or our self. The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties: all of us are born to be afraid of loss, in all its forms, all of us, at times, are haunted or overwhelmed even by the possibility of a disappearance, and all of us therefore, are but one short step away from dishonesty. Every human being dwells intimately close to a door of revelation they are afraid to pass through. Honesty lies in understanding our close and necessary relationship with not wanting to hear the truth.

The ability to speak the truth is as much the ability to describe what it is like to stand in trepidation…

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Thin Slices of Anxiety: Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) illustrated…

300x600An article in The Guardian struck me quite forcefully today. It highlighted the value of a book that I have come across before – its pictures representing a personal struggle against anxiety in a way that speaks to me – and to many others who have to find ways to manage the feelings associated with those generalised anxiety disorder (or GAD). The lack of confidence, indecision and sheer panic. The inability to move forward, or to see a positive future.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage is highly recommended for those with direct experience, and those working with clients who exhibit ‘symptoms’. To have GAD is not simply to feel overwhelming anxiety and panic, but to feel guilty about having those feelings. Many with GAD feel judged – their lives, on the surface, can seem enviable; ‘What have you got to be anxious about?’ the question many fear. Rebecca Slater, in her Guardian article says:


Illustration by Catherine LePage: the Periodic Table of the Elements of Response. Photograph: Catherine Lepage/Chronicle Books

“It’s almost impossible to explain the pervasive feeling of all things – all decisions, all possible outcomes, past, present and future – cascading through my mind, folding into themselves, forming a tighter and tighter ball until it feels as though all room to move or act or breathe has been squeezed out.


And on top of it all, that paralysing guilt of being anxious, being miserable and wanting, despite my privilege and comfort in life. Explaining that is hard. But somehow, through her simple words and pictures, LePage has found a way.”

Sometimes those with anxiety just need to feel the solidarity of knowing others have the same thoughts whirling through their minds, often at the worst possible times. GAD can isolate people socially, lower self esteem and confidence and put up a wall between a person and their loved ones.

Do take a look at Catherine’s book if you get the chance. Her imagery captures her own experience, and she offers the comfort that, ‘thinly sliced and illustrated, emotions are much easier to digest.’


Managing stress – Men’s Health Week 2016

Rupert Counsellor

Today – Monday 13th June – marks the beginning of Men’s Health Week . This year the theme is stress, and the Men’s Health Forum which promotes the week in the UK asks: ‘We all get stressed. The question is: what do you do about it?’.

Statistics show that

  • 76% of suicides are by men and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 (ONS)
  • 12.5% of men in the UK are suffering from one of the common mental health disorders
  • Men are nearly three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent (8.7% of men are alcohol dependent compared to 3.3% of women – Health and Social Care Information Centre)
  • Men are more likely to use (and die from) illegal drugs
  • Men are less likely to access psychological therapies than women. Only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men.

The forum compares the chances of a man experiencing mental health problems is 3/1, similar to those offered against France or Germany winning the Euro 2016 football tournament. “In other words, it’s likely to happen sooner or later if we let stress build.”

This action against stress is reinforced by a lot of useful information on the Men’s Health Week web page. You can also download a ‘toolbox talk’ on beating stress HERE.

mhw_2016logoWe have written about men’s mental health in the past a number of times. The key to success seems to be the encouragement to talk about the stress, depression and anxiety many experience but find it hard to describe, or open up about to friends or colleagues. It is really important to recognise the stress you are under, and take steps to address it. After all, statistics suggest:

  • Men are less able to recognise warning signs, or to act on them, and are therefore less likely to contact support services. This is very similar to the male response to physical symptoms.
  • There is an increased reliance on self-management or medication using alcohol or drug abuse which can wreak havoc on their own lives and those of their family and friends.

So if you are concerned about your own mental health, or that of someone you know, visit the Men’s Health Forum website and start the conversation now.

Here at The Terrace we have a number of counsellors skilled in the mental health needs of both sexes. Please do contact us for a no-obligation initial discussion  – we are keen to help.

Infant Mental Health Week – let’s start as we mean to go on….

UK days IMHAW16 EnglandThis week marks the first UK Infant Mental Health Week, with the aim ‘to open up the conversation about the importance of the first 1001 days: conception to age 2 period’.

Many therapists are now looking at the importance of a child’s mental health from as early as conception, and certainly there is already evidence about the impact of a traumatic birth on the long-term mental health of a child. Resilience, intelligence, confidence – all those things we would wish for all children can be influenced in those very first days.

So this is an important first step in recognising, nationally, the importance of pre and post-natal care of mother and baby. The Infant Mental Health Awareness week is supported by a number of important organisations, each of whom can offer support and more information about the needs of babies and toddlers in those earliest days. These include (with their websites):

The Association for Infant Mental Health UK (AIMH UK)

The Institute of Health Visiting (IHV)

Parent Infant Partnership UK (PIP)

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

Zero to Three

1001 Critical Days

Public Health England and the union Unite are also involved in this new partnership, which we hope will continue to highlight these issues and ensure there is a seamless chain of support for children and parents from the very earliest moments of life.

We have therapists here at The Terrace who are skilled at working with mothers and babies to support those first critical weeks and months. Do contact us on 01823 338968 for more details, or see our website, www.the-terrace.co.uk.