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.

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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.

Depression Awareness Week -keep the campaigns going

whatyoudontsee-768x768Darker than grief, an implosion of the self, a sheet of ice: no matter how you describe it, this is a terrifying state to be trapped in Tim Lott, The Guardian Tuesday 19th April 2016.

This week is Depression Awareness Week. Perhaps, when there are so many ‘awareness’ days, weeks and now months, we start to take less notice of individual campaigns? ‘Compassion fatigue’ is described by some as a willingness to be supportive, but with so many causes to support it becomes more difficult. It is hard to focus on one campaign without feeling guilty about all the others you cannot give your time, and often money, to.

It is vital that we resist that fatigue when it comes to our mental health, however. For many years, the stigma attached to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues was such that no-one felt able to discuss their issues openly. There is still a long way to go before that stigma has entirely disappeared, but here at the Terrace we are definitely noticing that many more people feel able to open up and take steps to address their, often lifelong, needs. From childhood trauma, to PTSD and relationship problems and across the whole mental health spectrum there is an increased willingness to seek help.

Our mental health impacts directly on our physical health, so an holistic, whole body approach to some physical illnesses can work wonders; yet the NHS struggles to bring together services that could, in the end, save money. It seems a vicious circle.

Depression is particularly damaging because it is largely invisible. Often people mask their symptoms, at great cost. It can be exhausting to hide your true feelings. This is why campaigns such as the #whatyoudontsee social media campaign run by the fabulous Blurt Foundation this week are so important. Depression can literally hit anyone, at any time. Young or old, regardless of gender and personal life – the number of sports stars, television celebrities and film stars opening up prove that even wealth and fame are not protective factors.

So seek help. Join in the online campaigns. Approach your GP, or contact us here at The Terrace (we have great counsellors and psychotherapists, as well as mindfulness and complementary therapists), and most importantly talk about the issues you are experiencing.

In a fast-paced consumer-driven society we are all searching for meaning in a life we know in our heart to be finite.

 

 

Domestic abuse: can ‘Drive’ change perpetrator behaviour?

imagesHere at The Terrace we have a focus on couples work, and were interested to hear reports yesterday that some men, deemed to pose a high risk of domestic violence, will be given therapy on a one to one basis in order to address their abusive behaviour. Called ‘Drive’, the initiative is currently restricted to three pilot areas – Essex, Sussex and South Wales – but if successful it will be rolled out across the country. It is estimated that 900 of the most ‘dangerous’ offenders (those deemed at risk of causing serious bodily harm, or committing murder) will be asked to take part in the scheme over the next three years.

At the moment, perpetrators are asked to take part in group work or family therapy. In the new scheme, they will be given bespoke one-to-one sessions, given support to tackle any alcohol, drug or mental health problems they experience and offered advice on employment, housing and parenting issues. If they refuse to take part they will be ‘closely monitored’ by police and any necessary legal steps take to prevent further offending behaviours.

It has been acknowledged that the most serious perpetrators need to be targeted to ensure they do not go from victim to victim without changing their behaviour. Domestic abuse charities Respect and SafeLives are supporting the initiative, whilst the charity Refuge has doubts, considering there to be no evidence that this type of therapy has any effect.

On the BBC website Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, is quoted as saying:

“On the face of it, it seems like a worthy thing to do. In an ideal world we would approach this from both sides. But we don’t live in an ideal world…..We live in a world where thousands and thousands of women and children are being terrorised and brutalised in their homes and they have nowhere to go. And sadly, finding a refuge space in this country is like finding gold dust.”

Her counterpart at SafeLives, Diana Barran, disagrees:

“Despite significant improvements for victim safety in the UK there are still 100,000 women who live with high-risk domestic abuse at any one time……If you do not hold perpetrators to account, we will continue to see the statistics at a standstill.

“Focusing on crisis management is of course vital but we want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow – and we can only do this by getting to the root and the cause of the problem – the perpetrator.”

Critics expressed concern that the most dangerous offenders are often the most manipulative, and will be able to convince professionals they are changing whilst continuing the abuse behind the closed doors of their homes, or will wait till they are deemed ‘safe’ and move on to another victim.

The issue of domestic abuse is one that we will follow closely here at The Terrace. It does not only affect adult relationships, but the future life hopes of any children of the relationship too, many of whom suffer lifelong trauma and are vulnerable to repeat behaviours.We would be interested to hear your views.

If you or anyone you know needs more information or support, the following links will take you through to people who can help.

Respect

Refuge

SafeLives

For BBC Report see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35591041

‘Let’s talk!’ – about mens’ mental health

iStock_000029384684MediumWe have written before about the difficulties men face when they are experiencing mental health issues. It is nearly a year since we wrote of the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation in Boys Don’t Cry and since then we have seen periodic moves to raise awareness of suicides amongst young men, for example. Yet the situation hardly seems to change.

So why do men find it harder to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties, often so serious that they are considering ending it all? Is it that their issues relate specifically to being male?

There is still, even in the 21st century, an expectation that the man is the one on whom others rely. He will sort out problems, practical or otherwise. From toddlerhood a boy is discouraged from expressing his emotions in a healthy way – ‘boys don’t cry” or ‘act like a man’ are phrases many still hear, and thus when they are faced with problems they can’t solve, perhaps in young adulthood, they are more likely to feel they have failed as a man. A culture of silence amongst their contemporaries means few of them realise how common these feelings are.

Jane Gotto, Director here at The Terrace, says:

“Yes, men are at a crossroads and the question of how to be a ‘good man’ has changed and the parameters are different.   Mainly our culture does still support the expectation that men should be strong, shouldn’t cry, nor share feelings of being vulnerable or having difficulty.    This leaves some men without a way to process their feelings, or even acknowledge what’s happening for them, which can create isolation and alienation.   From there, the difficulty can escalate with other behaviours to cover the difficult feelings – increased drinking, excessive work or exercise, sexualised behaviour, drugs etc…”

Research has suggested that men sometimes feel better taking part in active therapy, such as art, music or horticultural sessions rather than direct one to one therapy sessions. It was also deemed important to ensure men didn’t have to take time off work to attend sessions as work was something that held many together, and when working in a stereotypically macho atmosphere many were reluctant to express their feelings openly. Some felt that mental health services were geared around ‘women’s problems’ and whether true or not that has to be a perception that is changed if we are to see any progress.

Rupert CounsellorFrom the articles and reports that have come out in recent months it is clear that there are specific issues men struggle with, including drinking increased amounts of alcohol and other addictive behaviours. The Charter for Sport and Recreation works to remove the stigma around men’s mental health by raising awareness of the problems well-known sports stars have faced. Cricketer Andrew Flintoff and footballer Clarke Carlisle have been frank about their problems, and now we regularly hear leaders in their sporting fields speaking about mental health. But there is still much work to be done. Jane Gotto says:

“22 years ago, when I founded The Terrace, very few men sought counselling support.  This has significantly changed with men seeking support for themselves and for their relationships in more recent years. Some men have been able to carve out a supportive network with mind liked men.     However encouraging this is, more needs to be provided and more needs to be said.”

In 2015, a documentary was shown on BBC3 in which Stephen Manderson, better known as British rap artist Professor Green, allowed cameras to follow him as he sought to find out why his father had committed suicide eight years ago.  Manderson said:

“At the end of the day suicide is a violent end. It’s the taking of a life……It’s violent, irrespective of the method, so it’s hard to talk about and it’s scary. Shying away from it is not going to do any good, though.”

He went on:

“The documentary was actually the first time me and my grandmother talked about it…. it is difficult. It’s not something even family like to talk about. It’s really hard.”

Manderson (Professor Green) went on to make a second program, showing where people can get support, including the work of The Maytree, a centre where people can go when they have suicidal feelings.

In an article about the documentary, published in The Guardian on 27th October last year, Rory O’Connor, professor at Glasgow University, highlighted the deep-rooted nature of male suicide:

“The bottom line is, we as men, are not socialised to seek help. We are traditionally the breadwinner, we’re the rock for our family…..Currently services, arguably, are not set up for men to access them. Much better research needs to be done about why men clam up more and we need to go beyond the traditional cliches.”

If you would like more information about the support available to men, and women, with mental health issues, these links are a good place to start.

Many offer a helpline if you fear you are reaching a crisis point.

For young people: Young Minds

Mental health charity Mind, with local branch Mind in Taunton & West Somerset

SANE

The Mental Health Foundation

www.mankindcounselling.org.uk

There is also an excellent report, referred to in this article, which offers an overview of men’s mental health services. It is called Delivering Male and to download simply click on the link to download a copy.

The link to Professor Green’s program can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGjlPACQC6Y&app=desktop

Do also feel free to call us here at The Terrace on 01823 338968. We have a number of counsellors particularly skilled in dealing with the issues mentioned in this article and we would be pleased to discuss matters, in confidence of course.

A moment’s madness…Preventing Road Traffic Accidents affecting young people

L2LHere at The Terrace we are always keen to promote campaigns that support young people as they take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Pressures on them are numerous, and it is important to ensure there is the proper education in place to ensure they have all the information they need to make healthy decisions.

One such campaign is Learn2Live, or L2L, a partnership including representatives from Local Authority Road Safety Teams, Fire & Rescue Service, Police, Paramedics, Family Liaison Officers, Consultants as well as families themselves. Rosemary Pell, Manager of the Road User Support Service (RUSS) and a great friend of The Terrace has been involved in the work of L2L and we have been deeply impressed with the impact of the work of the team behind the charity in neighbouring Devon. So much so in fact, that this blog is by way of calling for the programme to be started in Somerset as soon as possible.

Statistics relating to young drivers are terrifying. One in five wil have an accident within six months of passing their test and L2L says young drivers (aged 17-24 years) are overrepresented in road collisions compared with other road users:

  • Young male drivers are more prone to being involved in collisions compared with young female drivers
  • Speeding is a key contributory factor to collision involvement including exceeding the speed limit and driving too fast for the conditions
  • Collisions involving young drivers are more likely to occur during night-time hours, on rural roads and involve a single vehicle, predominantly on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Young drivers are often involved in collisions where they have failed ot cope with unexpected situations due to their inexperience.
  • Young drivers are 50% more likely to crash in their first year
  • In 2012 approximately 31% of all KSI’s (Killed and Seriously Injured) collisions involved young people

Many of the figures relate to drivers of course, but L2L says that statistically the most dangerous seat in a vehicle is the front passenger seat, predominantly occupied by young females.

At L2L events, young people aged 16 – 19 are shown a DVD featuring a mock up of a fatal road traffic collision. They then hear the true life stories of emergency service personnel who have attended such incidents involving young drivers. Family members who’s loved ones have been killed or have received life-changing injuries tell their personal stories
too, finishing with an offending driver who has killed someone as a consequence of their driving. These are highly emotive presentations – the strap-line for the charity is ‘A moment’s madness – a lifetime of sadness….’

The L2L presentations started in Devon in 2008. Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police stats for 2009 – 2013 show an overall 30% drop in the numbers of young drivers (17 -24 year olds) killed or seriously injured (KSI’s) in that time. The drop from 2013 – 2014 alone was 11%.  Although we cannot assume this news is wholly attributable to the L2L project, there is no doubt that it is having a massive impact on those young people who attend the event, with plenty of evidence on social media to support it.

Rosemary Pell says

It always seems such a tragic waste of life when a young person dies on our roads and I am saddened when I hear the harrowing stories at the ‘Learn2Live’ events, particularly those relayed by family members who have been devastated by their loss. There is no doubt that young drivers’ behaviour is being impacted by these hard hitting presentations, as indicated by the reduction in the numbers of drivers and passengers being killed or seriously injured in road traffic incidents in Devon. I feel pleased and privileged to be involved with such a worthwhile project.

ThinkAmyIn Somerset, the charity Think Amy was established to promote safe driving. Amy was a lovely Somerset 13 year old killed on 15 June 2011 by two car drivers racing each other at motorway speeds along a residential road in Taunton, Somerset. Amy was cycling along a cycle path with an adult on a clear sunny evening when the driver of the lead car lost control on a bend. The car became airborne and struck Amy. She died instantly.

Jane Hofmeister, Amy’s mother and founder of Think Amy told us:

I was delighted to be asked to be a guest speaker at two of the Learn2Live presentations (South Devon College and Plymouth Pavilion). I was very impressed with how the presentations were put together and delivered, and with the level of support that was offered both to speakers and importantly to students who attended who were affected by what they heard.

The team of presenters included members of the fire, ambulance and police services and a victim’s family member. They each recalled their personal experience of dealing with the consequences of a road traffic collision in a very moving and powerful way. It highlights very effectively the impact dangerous driving has on so many people and educates students in what they can do to help prevent other tragedies in the future.

The feedback I received from the two Learn2Live presentations I took part in was tremendous. Not just in terms of the volume of comments and replies but in the strength of support and commitment shown by the students in wanting to promote safe driving and change behaviour for the better.

In my opinion the Learn2Live presentations are a very effective way of educating students about making better choices when driving or as a passenger.

All the evidence suggests that young people who take part in the L2L events experience a real change in attitudes towards driving. With the statistics indicating a real benefit and a reduction in those horrifying figures quoted earlier, we are calling for the campaign to spread wider and into Somerset, where narrow country roads and winding faster A roads offer tempting opportunities to drive fast and dangerously.