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.

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.

 

 

A Mindful New Year…..

new yearWell we are a week into 2016, so we thought we would repost a great piece by our own mindfulness expert, Miranda Bevis. How many of us are still keeping to those new year’s resolutions? Should we even be trying – adding additional pressures to our already stressful days? 

In days gone by, as the old year departed, I would enthusiastically construct a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. This was it! I was at last going to get in control! Become thin and fit and popular, well read, up to date with current affairs and so, so organized. And for the first few days, I’d get up early, go for a run, read improving books and eat improving food. Hoover under the sofa, tidy my sock drawer and open brown envelopes immediately.

If I’d managed to carry all these good intentions through, by now I would be lean and fit, living a life that worked like clockwork, fluent in a number of foreign languages, with an In tray that was always empty, and an Out smugly full. But happier? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, not surprisingly, I rarely got beyond week one with any of them; certainly they never made it to February. Very quickly, exhaustion, apathy and chocolate would take over, and I would be back where I started.

Why do we do this? I suspect it’s got something to do with wanting getting to grips with life, and to feel more in control. Perhaps coming from a feeling of not really being in control.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve aspects of our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to these goals lightly, and understand that even if we achieved them, it wouldn’t necessarily make us happy or help us to navigate the pitfalls of life.

The truth is that we just aren’t fully in control of our lives. Difficult things are always going to happen. Mindfulness offers the possibility of being “in control of not being in control”. It helps us embrace both the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the tragedies of life with equanimity. It’s not about trying to change things, but simply learning to be OK with being exactly where we are.

So these days, there’s only one item on the list, and that is to do as much Mindfulness as I possibly can. Over and over to come back to the present, to the simple breath, to an awareness of what I’m doing , while I’m doing it.

And strangely, the more I practice, I find that some of the things on the original list begin to come more naturally. By developing a kindly awareness towards myself, it becomes much easier to give myself what I truly need.

Still not great with brown envelopes though.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsMiranda is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace, Taunton in January 2016:


Taster Sessions:
Tuesday January 12th 6.30- 8.00pm
Wednesday January 13th 9.30- 11.00am
Cost £5

Eight week Mindfulness Courses
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March See the Events page of The Terrace website for full details.

 

More tips to help survive Christmas!

imagesWell, we say ‘survive’ but really it is all a matter of planning, arranging and agreeing to a festive season that suits your needs whilst supporting other family members and friends who might also find Christmas a difficult time.

December, for example, is a month in which many relationships struggle as the stress of organising who goes where when and with what becomes simply overwhelming. Jane Gotto here at The Terrace has always worked to pull together all the best Christmas tips that she has used over many years of working in relationship and couples counselling and today we wanted to share a few more, as we approach the last week before the ‘big day’.

Today we want you look at whether you are a classic Christmas ‘grump’ ‘Grinch’ or Ebeneezer Scrooge. 

Is there  a reason (either in the recent past  or back in your family history) why Christmas lowers your mood. Were you ‘made’ to feel the Christmas Spirit, or forced to continue in a particular ritual without enjoying it?  Or was there an event which still evokes difficult memories? These are all ‘Christmas Spirit killers’ and understandably so.
You might want to create your own ritual – one that is personal and authentic and connects you to who you actually are, rather than joining the Christmas mad rush.

Pay particular attention to what is important to you; you may want to see special friend(s) or spend time with one member of your family rather than all of them.

Think about planning and preparing a meal you enjoy, or creating your own spiritual practice – meditation or quiet time can be important as a hectic day threatens to overwhelm. There is nothing wrong with taking time to read a book or watch a film that interests you or simply spending time alone.

Remember, getting it right for you often gets it right for others too.

Do you have any Christmas tips you can share with us here at The Terrace? We would love to hear from you.

Coping with the stress of Christmas

Guinea-Pig-in-lightsThis is the third Christmas on the ‘let’s talk!’ blog and here at The Terrace we like to share our hints and tips for coping with the stress and strain of the season. However one celebrates at this time of year, it is impossible to avoid the crush in the shops, the inflated prices and the temptations of food and alcohol that can lead to those ‘morning after’ feelings and affect our overall well-being at this  time of year. Coughs, colds and other bugs adore the warm, wet weather we have had so far and the last thing we want is illness to drag us down when so much needs doing. We are at risk of scuttling round like this gorgeous guinea pig, ending up under the duvet and desperate to avoid all the trials and tinsel.

Jane Gotto has come up with some wonderful ideas over the years, and here we offer more of her thoughts on how to cope over the coming weeks. Today we focus on that awkward moment when you are making final arrangements for the days over the holiday:

Think about what you would like to do for Christmas

If final plans are not yet made, and you dread some of the options open to you, take time to make sure days are, as far as is possible, arranged in the way you would like them to be. If necessary, come up with alternatives and check with family and friends if you are concerned that changes may affect them.
Do NOT allow yourself to be pulled into an arrangement which you know is
not going to work for you. It IS just a few days in the year, and the temptation is to think only about making others happy (that is what we all hope to do at this time of year after all) but the anxiety and stress can be present  for weeks in the lead up and can effect health, sleep and general well-being for a long period. 

Come back early next week for some more wise words from Jane, who has years of experience in supporting individuals and couples through testing times. Christmas can be great fun, but it can also put a strain on the closest bonds….

If you fancy a pre Christmas massage, our therapist Sarah Sellick still has a few appointments available at a reduced rate. Or why not buy a loved one a relaxing massage for Christmas? Contact us about gift vouchers on 01823 338968.

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.

Bullying – Top tips for parents and carers

Lola's-story281x210November 16th marked the beginning of ‘Anti-bullying week’ and we thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of the information and support offered online. After all, bullying doesn’t just take place in the playground, or at work. Cyber-bullying has opened up a myriad new ways to exert power over the vulnerable, particularly over social media.

Firstly – what exactly constitutes bullying? The Anti-Bullying Alliance, which promotes #antibullyingweek, defines it as:

‘the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.’

It is worth stating here that some of those accused of bullying claim they didn’t know that is what they were doing, or that, particularly in the working environment, that the behaviour is simply a management technique. However, anything that involves arguments and rudeness, excluding or ignoring a colleague, or not crediting their contribution or overloading them with work can be bullying, as can spreading malicious gossip. The charity Mind has some great advice about workplace bullying, and offers links to organisations that can offer employment support.

For children and their parents, the NSPCC website offers a wonderful resource that covers not just the tips to help you if you or your child is being bullied, but help if you find your child is actually the bully. It also offers information for teachers and schools, to ensure their anti-bullying policy is up to date and fit for purpose.

cyberbullying234x346Cyber-bullying is the latest, and often most frightening, form of bullying. It can often be done anonymously, and recourse to help seems hard to find. However, the charity Childline has a page full of advice. They define cyber-bullying as:

‘Cyber bullying (also called ‘online bullying’) is when a person or a group of people uses the internet, email, online games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else’

This can clearly apply to both children and adults (most of us are now aware of ‘trolling’ on social media,  when Facebook pages or twitter feeds are bombarded with threats and insults), but it is a particular concern to parents, as they see their children living their lives through their smartphones, tablets or laptops and feel excluded from potentially difficult situations online that, ten years ago, would have been out in the open, and perhaps more identifiable and manageable.

Childline offers immediate support and their website gives you all the links. Don’t forget, this issue includes ‘sexting’, a subject we have written about before, when children can find themselves the subject of explicit images that are shared widely without their permission.

Bullying has been going on for millenia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all take action by being clear on what the term means and taking action where necessary. Bullies themselves need support, as they are statistically likely to have been victims of bullying themselves in the past and it is vital that cycle is stopped.

So take a look at these sites and make sure you are clued up. #antibullyingweek shouldn’t end on Friday 20th……

Well-being for students – University isn’t all party, party, party…

images (6)We have recently reposted our piece about ‘empty-nesting’ and the anxiety of parents as their children head off to University and college for the first time. This time of year can be tough for the whole family, and it is important for everyone to acknowledge the emotional and physical stress involved in this new phase of family life.

So – today we focus on those young people taking what might be their first steps to independence. Along with the natural excitement of organising accommodation, buying any equipment and books necessary and packing carefully, there is also a natural level of anxiety – it is the body’s natural reaction to the anticipation of the unknown.Will I like my course? Will I make friends? Will I have enough money? It may not feel like it but everyone has these concerns, even the most confident prospective student. It is a time when you need to take your mate’s bravado with a pinch of salt – inside they will have their own worries, guaranteed.

But sometimes anxiety can become overwhelming. You may find you have work to do before you even start your course. There will be the expectations of parents and teachers and of course, the importance of your course to your future hopes and ambitions. This is the time to notice your body, and any physical symptoms that you may experience that can be attributed to this anxiety. You may not even see them coming, as they gradually creep up on you.

  • You may be less able to sleep…
  • You may lose your appetite…
  • You may feel tired and drained…
  • You could be irritable and prone to mood swings…

Sometimes these symptoms can actually affect your life on a day-to-day basis. Panic attacks, when you feel you can’t breathe, that your heart is pounding, that you will be sick and that you need to run, or are rooted to the spot  can stop you doing those things you would normally enjoy for fear of breaking down in front of friends, or being unable to cope in stressful situations.

First of all, don’t be too hard on yourself – moving home for anyone is difficult and for you it will mean new town, new people, and new responsibilities. If you find anxiety levels rising try to remember that they won’t last forever – as you settle in to your new life the initial worries will fade to the background. Day-to-day worries will come and go, that is life. But if you can maintain some control over your life – especially when it comes to things like money, alcohol, getting exercise and eating healthily – you will find things easier to cope with.

Secondly, remember to talk about how you are feeling. This isn’t always easy, but if you can open up you will find you are not alone and hiding your feelings can simply store up more trouble for later. There is always support available at University or college. Student Support, the local GP, your lecturers and tutors…they are all trained to watch out for signs that their students are experiencing difficulties. And of course your parents and family at home need to know how you really feel. Don’t be afraid to approach someone. The longer you leave it the more cut off and hopeless you might feel.

images (7)To find out more about anxiety, stress and depression see the NHS website HERE. If you are reluctant to take that first step, you can approach someone anonymously – there is help at the end of a telephone. Call Samaritans, or Mind for example. Non-judgemental, they will listen and support you. Alternatively there is a great service that has been set up specially to support students. It is called Nightline and if your University or college is linked up there will be someone to help you. See their website at http://nightline.ac.uk/ . They have a useful list of other contacts HERE.

Remember – this is an exciting time, one that can be the very best time of your life. But you need to take care of yourself and always be certain that there is someone who can help you if you are struggling.

Also, see The Terrace website for details of the skilled therapists who work with us to support young people and their families.

Beating the stress of exams with the NSPCC

CaptureEach year we nominate a charity to benefit from our fundraising events and because of our commitment to ending of child abuse and the need to support the mental health of children and young adults we have, for the past three years, supported the NSPCC. Their campaigns are always targeted and committed to the prevention of cruelty to children and the support they offer in practical terms is fantastic. So, as we were looking to add to the previous posts we have written on dealing with the stress of exams we were pleased to see that the NSPCC has produced a leaflet for young people facing a tough few weeks of GCSEs and A Levels, as well as University examinations.

‘Beat Exam Stress ‘ is a colourful brochure filled with top tips to get anyone through May and June as healthily and successfully as possible. It is also brilliant for parents, who can watch out for signs of overload and perhaps take steps to intervene if things get tough.

Of course it includes the obvious (so much easier to swallow from the NSPCC that from a parent one suspects!) – don’t leave revision to the last minute, don’t cram the night before, don’t avoid subjects you find tough and so on. But there are some less obvious hints which need support from the adults in the household:

‘Try to talk to your family about how they can make studying a little easier for you – for example, by agreeing times when you can have your own space, when they will try to be a little quieter around the house and when you’d rather not be disturbed (except perhaps for the occasional treat,such as a drink or snack)’

This is so important  – many adults forget how worried they were when they took their own qualifications and a little thought can make the environment for revision so much more positive. As can avoiding confrontation – it is likely that exam stress will shorten fuses and as an adult, stepping back and remembering that exams are over in a few short weeks can be the best thing you can do for a child.

The leaflet also offers hints for the big days themselves, with checklists of things to remember and strategies for ensuring you can answer the questions on the paper to the best of your ability. Tips for dealing with anxiety sit alongside healthy eating and learning to pace yourself.

So we think this leaflet is terrific, covering all the practicalities without ignoring the emotional impact of exam time. The last page offers websites and helplines if further support is needed.

Here at The Terrace we have written about ensuring you pamper yourself, take a break and eat healthily over the next few weeks, as well as dealing healthily with the end of exams, when it is tempting to adopt destructive behaviours in the name of celebration.

The best thing to remember is, however, that exams don’t last forever!