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.

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.

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

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.

 

 

Switch off the email notifications, switch off the stress….

_85489389_85489384Do you ever switch off? REALLY switch off?

Many of us take a break by going for a walk, chilling on the sofa with a box set of our favourite programme, or having a meal out with friends. But is it really relaxation if we take our phones with us and allow it to make endless ‘ping’ ‘ring’ and ‘whoosh’ noises at us?

We would say no. Turning off a mobile phone whilst in a therapy room is a must, but it should be silent at any time we like to call ‘ours’, otherwise that time can be eaten into by a relentless stream of updates.

So we were glad to see reports in the press today, highlighting a study undertaken by psychologists at the London-based Future Work Centre, exploring email pressure’ and how it affects work-life balance.

The study found that emails, although a brilliant way to communicate, are equally good at causing our stress levels to rise. Researchers found that the two most stressful habits were leaving email alerts on all day and checking emails as soon as one gets up or lay down to sleep at night. We would add the stress of notifications from social media accounts too – Facebook and twitter streams can contact us 24 hours of the day if we let them.

The study found that turning off email updates on mobiles and laptops (and tablets too surely) will help reduce stress levels. It can also affect our perceptions of stress, as it feels as if we never get a break, when actually we have control over how we interact with our technology.

The study also found, perhaps predictably, that those in managerial positions felt higher levels of email pressure than non-managers.

Figures given by Ofcom suggest there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide, with adults spending an average of over an hour of each day on emails.

So perhaps, as we head into another year, almost certainly offering us means of communication in easier and quicker ways, we take a step back and analyse, honestly, how our lives are affected by those endless little noises we seem so reluctant to ignore….

Eradicating FGM – some good news

fgm-campaign-1

Here at The Terrace we have always supported the worldwide campaign to eradicate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). FGM, or female circumcision, involves the removal of the clitoris and the stitching shut of a girl’s genitals, and is done for non-medical reasons. The practise is illegal in the United Kingdom, but many young girls are taken abroad to countries where it has not yet been banned.

The procedure is traditionally carried out by a woman, in a grossly abusive way – rarely with anaesthetic, cut by razor blades, knives or scissors for example – and often with a young girl, barely into puberty or younger, physically restrained. They can then be subject to ongoing health problems, such as tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and C and it can make childbirth incredibly difficult.

We have frequently written about FGM here on let’s talk!, updating readers with news and highlighting work being done to raise awareness and ensure girls here are safeguarded, so we were pleased to hear that the president of Gambia has banned the practise of FGM (although it has not yet been reported when the necessary legislation will be drafted to enforce the decision). Gambia was one of the 29 countries on the continent of Africa to still allow FGM.

It is reported that almost 80 per cent of women and girls have undergone FGM in Gambia, with the majority of claiming they were forced to undergo the procedure owing to an interpretation of Islam that required it. President Yahya Jammeh’s announcement is particularly iportant as he has now claimed Islam, which is the majority religion in Gambia, does not insist that a girl be cut.

There is still a lot of concern about the implementation, however. In rural areas of Gambia the overwhelming majority of women are subjected to FGM and enforcement would be difficult, but a surge in publicity and exposure of the practise has seemingly forced the president’s hand.

The Sculpted – a brave & shocking film about FGM…

CaptureAs regular readers of this blog might remember, we at The Terrace have always supported the campaign against the practice of Female Genial Mutilation (FGM). Figures recently released suggest the number of girls coming forward for support has increased significantly, but the procedure, also called ‘cutting’ or female circumcision, continues. It has been illegal in Britain for many years, but girls and young women are still abused in this way, often take abroad to have their external genitals partially or wholly removed. This results in painful sex and exceptionally difficult, and dangerous, labour and childbirth.

So when we saw this short film, made by student film-makers Ellie Jones and Miholyn Soon, from Westminster University we wanted to share it to highlight the cruelty of the practice. It  ‘deals with the intimate thoughts of a young girl about to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). It follows the internal monologue of a girl who never actually speaks, and uses creative imagery to illustrate the cruelty of the cut’.

It is available to view via The Guardian website HERE

It has been screened at Campus MovieFest in Hollywood and is a valuable addition to the campaign for a worldwide ban within a generation. Do take a look  – it just 4 minutes long and deeply moving…

More mindfulness practice: Jumping in puddles – cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’

imagesMany of you will have read our mindfulness posts in the past, perhaps learning some tips to try, or some poetry to focus on as you work to stay in the present moment. It isn’t always easy to make the necessary space and time in our busy lives, but the medical profession has at last recognised that for many, the ever-increasing pace of 21st century life is impossible to maintain.

Our own Miranda Bevis, an expert mindfulness practitioner, runs regular workshops and courses to support anyone wanting to learn mindfulness techniques. She has also written widely on the subject, and she has shared the following piece with us. I found it deeply moving, remembering watching my own children experience the joy of something simple for the first time, and wanting to enjoy that feeling over and over again. As adults, Miranda points out, we rarely do this and. perhaps, need to get in touch with our inner child just a little more often……

When my kids were little, they were drawn, like magnets, to puddles. Many a walk ground to a halt as a puddle had to be inspected. Stood in. Jumped up and down in. Delighted in. But not just one puddle. Every single one they came across. Oblivious of cold and wind, for them, each puddle was a fresh and new excitement, and needed to be explored and reveled in.

At first I could delight in their happiness, their squeals of joy. But inevitably, my mind would stray and become bored. How many times do we have to do this? We’ve got to get on, let’s find some thing new. I’m afraid there were times when I gritted my teeth in frustration,

Small children are very good at being present. They can easily find magic in the mundane, and become completely absorbed in each moment. As we grow up, we tend to lose this. It’s easy to become bored and cynical. “Seen one, seen them all”. We want to move on and find new distractions. So, as I sit now, looking at my rain washed spring garden, at first sight, I am aware it’s beautiful. Of course it doesn’t change, after one minute, five minutes, ten minutes. But what can change is the way I perceive it. I might only appreciate the beauty for an instant, before I get used to it, and become distracted. Instead of staying with the experience of my senses, thoughts to crowd in. Of things that need doing, of plans for the garden. And masses of non-garden related thoughts. The garden, and it’s beauty “disappear” from my awareness.

What we aim to do in mindfulness, is to cultivate something called a “beginner’s mind”. That means learning to see things as if this was the first time we’d ever noticed them. You can practice it on anything; perhaps try with a flower. As best you can, let go of thoughts about the flower, and keep on coming back, over and over, to the experience of your eyes. Let go of any thoughts about being bored and wanting to move on to something else. Rather, keep on “refreshing the screen”… this flower, and this flower, and this flower, so that, in each instant there is a new and wonderful flower in front of you. Or go and splash in puddles if you must!

Miranda Bevis - 226x316 (1 of 1)Dr Miranda Bevis’s original training was in medicine, and she worked as a GP in Somerset, with a special interest in psychological problems. She gained a diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, and now works as a senior counsellor and EMDR practitioner at the Somerset Counselling Centre in Taunton. She is also a British Wheel of Yoga teacher.

 

Children’s Mental Health Week – why it is so important to listen & learn…

The Duchess of Cambridge launching Children's Mental Health Week 2015

The Duchess of Cambridge launching Children’s Mental Health Week 2015

Here at The Terrace we nominate a charity each year, to which we make donations from funds raised at our events and open days. We also raise awareness – which in many cases is more important than money. For the charity we have supported for the past two years – the NSPCC – that is especially important as only now is society beginning to recognise how mental health issues are affecting children and young people in the UK, and how services should be tailored to their needs, rather than tagged on to adult care.

Late last week the ChildLine Review was published, showing that four out of ten children contacting the Helpline are doing so because of a mental health issue. Two thirds of online counselling sessions offered by the charity relate to self-harm, suicidal feelings, low self-esteem, unhappiness and other mental health concerns. You can read the full report here. It makes for reading that should be of interest to parents and professionals alike.

Yesterday the Duchess of Cambridge released a video to mark the beginning of the very first Children’s Mental Health week. Filmed at the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School in Kent, it highlights the issues many children face as they grow up in a society that is ever more pressurised and which can leave them vulnerable to depression, anxiety and self-harm. It calls for the better provision of early intervention to ensure children get the support they need as a matter of urgency, that being the very best way to make sure they move into adulthood with the resilience they need to cope. You can watch it on the BBC News website here.

Children’s Mental Health Week was launched by Place2Be, a wonderful charity that offers emotional support within schools. Their website offers some, frankly frightening. statistics:

  • 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health problem
  • Half of those with lifetime mental health issues first experience symptoms by the age of 14
  • Depression and anxiety amongst teenagers have increased by 75% in the past 25 years

iStock_000022060638SmallBut it can also say that more than 80% of parents felt their children’s problems were better after receiving counselling, and research suggests that children are less likely to experience mental health problems in adulthood if they get this early support. Here at The Terrace we offer counselling for children and teenagers with three of our most experienced psychotherapists. Find out more here.

We have written about issues facing our children many times on this blog. Sexting, abuse, exam pressures, FGM, the use of police cells to incarcerate young people – it seems there are so many new things for adults to worry about as their youngsters grow up. But we know from the terrible cases relating to historic sexual abuse that dangers have always been there, and can be countered if children are encouraged to speak out about things that concern them and are listened to. Properly listened to and believed.

Children’s Mental Health Week is a great idea. Let’s hope we can continue the conversation, and support, all year round.

Shell Shocked Britain – The First World War & inter-generational trauma

Shell Shocked jacket high res jpegAs we approach the first Remembrance or Armistice Day commemorations of the First World War centenary  it is appropriate to be mindful of what exactly we are marking on Sunday, and on the 11th of November 2014. Yes, we are offering up our thanks to those who gave their lives in the Great War and subsequent conflicts, but we must also remember those who survived, lived, and are living with the aftermath of the war.

In Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health, Suzie Grogan looks at the impact of the First World War on the men, women and children who survived it. How did those four years of conflict affect the way we view the mental health of those traumatised by their experience of war, whether directly or indirectly?

Dr Peter Heinl, in Splintered Innocence and others have long studied how ‘neuroses’ can be transmitted from parent to child, replicating traits down the generations.  It has not been easy, as data is limited and follow-on studies of those diagnosed with shell shock or what we would now refer to as ‘combat stress’  is very limited, or non-existent.  Work with Holocaust survivors, however, has offered greater consistency in the results of studies into the intergenerational effects of parents’ traumas. Published work has suggested greater vulnerabilities to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in second and third generation survivors. Responses to a traumatic event – whether in conflict situations or a personal trauma such as bereavement or serious illness can be more marked in the children of traumatised parents.

Arthur Addison, shell shocked soldier

Arthur Addison, shell shocked soldier

Suzie Grogan was inspired to write this book when she discovered that her shell shocked great-uncle Alfred Hardiman had killed his ex-girlfriend and himself in 1922. His act sent shock waves through his community and through the generations of his own family, but it was not an isolated case. She discovered that her grandfather had also suffered from shell shock, along with tens of thousands of other men who fought in the First World War. Identifying other members of her family who had subsequently experienced mental health issues, and acknowledging her own periods of depression and acute anxiety,  Grogan was keen to examine how the events of 1914-18 continue to resonate with us 100 years on and in doing so she uncovered new material to chart the many tragedies with their roots in the conflict.

Shell Shocked Britain looks at:

  • the direct effects of shell shock on the troops and their families,
  • the different medical approaches to ‘cure’ shell shock, including electric shock treatment, hypnotism and the talking therapies, as well as ‘miracle’ cures.
  • The impact of the1922 Committee Report on Shell Shock that was supposed to change the way men were treated in future conflicts.
  • the devastating air raids that brought the war, literally, into the domestic lives of the Home Front, killing civilians as they stood in the streets and wrecking the Upper North St school in Poplar, East London, killing 18 children.
  • The lingering after –effects of the Spanish influenza virus and the horrors of an outbreak that killed 200,000 in Britain alone as war continued to rage.
  • why thousands turned to séances and spiritualist church and how the rise of the Eugenics Society had direct links to the conflict, with leading thinkers supporting unthinkable responses.
  • how tragedies such as that perpetrated by Alfred Hardiman and suicides in general increased even into the 1930s.
  • the legacy of shell shock and lessons for future conflicts – 1914 to 2014

In the book Suzie Grogan asks tough questions of her 21st Century audience. We are told not to attribute modern views on historical events, but, she maintains, these are our close kin – parents, grandparents and great grandparents. For hundreds of thousands of people the trauma of the Great War never left them, and in the modern army highly trained men and women still break down, coming back to a civilian life for which they are ill-prepared.

To ensure children are protected from the higher levels of family breakdown, substance misuse, domestic violence and homelessness  that affect troops now as they did 100 years ago, it is important, as this book highlights, to use the next four years of commemorative events to remember those who continue to struggle with the fallout of war, and support them.

Suzie Grogan is talking at the Taunton Literary Festival on 11th November 2014 and for Taunton Association for Psychotherapy on the 14th November . See suziegrogan.co.uk for more details