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.

A commitment to stop abuse: the NSPCC is our charity for 2014

nspcc_logo_masterHere at The Terrace in Taunton we have, for a number of years now, ‘adopted’ a charity with whom we work for a year and for whom we raise funds at various events. In the past we have supported bibic and St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice and both remain dear to our hearts. However, in 2013 we announced that we would be raising funds for the NSPCC and for the first time we are continuing that support into a second year. Why? Well the work we know they are doing to support our children and young people is getting more important as time passes, and technology develops that offers more opportunities for abuse to those intent on exploiting children. The government of the day always says they will put in place new rules and regulations to prevent those intent on ‘grooming’ girls and boys. But still it continues.

Child sexual exploitation rings have been uncovered in the big cities and most recently there have been big court cases involving perpetrators in  Rochdale and Oxford. It is hard to believe that this could happen in other, more rural areas such as here in the south-west of England where we assume communities are closer and we would notice if such a thing were happening. Many of those young people who fall victim to these gangs are vulnerable in some way – perhaps in local authority care or in a family where parental controls are not in place.

This is not the case. It is important to realise that  some abusers are brazen enough to approach young people in town centres in the middle of the day. They hang around schools, pick a ‘target’ and offer attention, making the young person feel special and taking them for coffee, flattering them in exchange for their mobile phone number.  An older man may make an under-age teenager feel they are more mature than their peers and encourage them to believe they are in a genuine relationship by showering them with expensive gifts.

campaignpngThe NSPCC offers support not only to young people but to parents and carers, to ensure we as adults recognise the signs and take action. We need to be on the look out for a change in habits, expensive items that we know our child could not have afforded, or a sudden need for secrecy about where they are going and who they are seeing. The young person may not perceive the behaviour of the man (it is rarely women, but not impossible so take nothing for granted) to be abusive and this can inevitably lead to friction so the NSPCC can be there for all sides, as can a counsellor or psychotherapist with particular skills in family mediation.

So this year we will once again be highlighting the work this wonderful charity does and working to raise funds for them. It is vital that we work hard to eradicate opportunities for the shocking abuse that can wreck young lives.

Go the NSPCC website  here for phone numbers to use to report a concern or for support in a crisis.

The Terrace Taunton offers support to families and to children and young people. See our website at www.the-terrace.co.uk for more details.

‘Sexting’ – how we must make sure young people know how to ‘Zipit’…

7841-Sexting234x346Here at The Terrace we are keen to promote charities that work to support children and protect those that are vulnerable, or who find themselves in situations that could leave them open to abuse and exploitation. We support the NSPCC as our chosen charity and run regular events to raise money for them, maintaining close links with the representative of the charity in the South West.

But it seems that we, as a society can never do enough. Those who want to abuse or place young people in the way of danger seem to find new ways to avoid detection and social media offers endless opportunities to put pressure on those with access to the internet to behave in ways that are harmful.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting areas of concern that have been mentioned in the press, or which are part of good safeguarding practice. If you are a parent, a professional working with young people, or a young person we hope these posts will make you think and offer ways of identifying possible abuse. They will also offer you ways to address the issue.

Today we focus on ‘sexting’ – which generally refers to the sending and receiving of texts including pictures of young people naked, in their underwear or in sexual positions. It also includes text messages or videos of a sexual nature. They might be sent from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or a stranger met online. Often it starts as an innocent conversation, but can rapidly go further than one party intended it to.

The charity Childline receives many calls from young people in deep distress  – images of them may have ‘gone viral’ at school or in their community, causing deep embarrassment at least, and at worst a wish to run away or even to commit suicide. Matters are now particularly acute, as a Childline survey showed that 6 out of 10 children own a smartphone, offering instant access to such pictures and messages.

Childline gives the example of one  17-year-old boy who told them sexting was “pretty normal” among his friends.

“My friends and I talk very openly about our experiences within our relationships, and the sort of things we’ve sent each other. It seems like everyone’s doing it…Someone saw a video message I had sent to a previous girlfriend, took a screen shot and posted it online. They called me a pervert and lots of people I knew saw it….I was completely devastated and, to be honest, almost suicidal.”

Isn’t it shocking that we allow such a thing to become a ‘normal’ experience for our children, many of whom are not yet teenagers?

Our nominated charity, the NSPCC, commissioned a report which was published as long ago as May 2012. Findings showed:

  • the primary technology-related threat comes from peers, not ‘stranger danger’
  • sexting is often coercive
  • girls are the most adversely affected
  • technology amplifies the problem by facilitating the objectification of girls
  • sexting reveals wider sexual pressures
  • ever younger children are affected
  • sexting practices are culturally specific

This indicates that where many parents protect their children effectively from ‘stranger danger’, they do not take sufficient account of peer pressure.

Zipit_bannerChildline has developed a phone app called ‘Zipit’ which offers the opportunity for a young person to send an appropriate response to any ‘sexting‘ they receive – a witty ‘killer comeback’ that gives them control. Essentially though, we need to ensure that schools take responsibility for education children and young people about the dangers of sending sexy images or messages using their phone. We also need to encourage them to check out the Childline website which has a terrific section on how to deal with a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is all about defusing the pressure that they feel coming at them from their peers.

So we must all make ourselves aware of the issue and recognise that we as adults are not always innocent in this area. Celebrities have been caught out tweeting images of themselves in compromising positions and something that we feel comfortable sending as a flirty message may feel very different when it is read at the other end of the ‘line’.

So take a look at all the great information on the websites of children’s charities. Awareness of these issues is a great start.

 

can listening heal this?

nspccI ask myself “What is everyone thinking about the sexual allegations.  What are their thoughts about the uncovering of decades of power and sexual abuse dished out to vulnerable children and adults behind the screens of some of our largest and most respected organisations – the Church, the BBC, British Boarding Schools, Houses of Parliament?”

When I ask myself the same question I realise I feel overwhelmed, dazed by the constant revelations, stunned by the ‘big names’, and numbed by the abhorrent nature of these violent acts.     It’s not just big names.   It is widespread, coming from numerous areas, locations and professions.

I feel disgusted and realise this is a good response  and I want to stay and stick with my disgust so I remain alert to further  information revealed in the week, months, even years to come.

I want to listen, hear and acknowledge a victim’s story – many still untold, kept secret through shame and silenced by our culture:- with years of mishandling by authority, by the police and even closer to home – people  in charge of their care.

Moira Smyth, our NSPCC representative, says “Last year the NSPCC’s Childline received over 2600  landline calls from Somerset. Nationally 25% of calls are from landlines (75% from mobiles). In Somerset this means there could have been over 10,000 calls from distressed children.  Where are these children?”

Maya Angelou spoke at an event, chaired by Jon Snow, in support of Stephen Lawrence. Her words, “We are the architects of our lives, our cultures, and each of us have a responsibility to do what is right, and speak out” still resonate for me.  We can create a world with more transparency – where children and adults can come forward, be received with respect, and given the care they need.

This is why we need to support the work of Operation Yew Tree – to listen, to believe and deal with each and every victim who comes forward.  I commit, as each story unfolds, to think of the victims, take time to reflect on their pain and admire their courage to speak.  They give us hope we can do this differently and better.

Jane Gotto, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist, works in Taunton with individuals, couples and families, supervises professional counsellors and psychotherapists and co-leads Post Graduate groups at Spectrum Therapy in London.

Jane founded The Terrace, Humanistic Psychotherapy and Complementary Health Centre, Staplegrove Road, Taunton in 1994.   01823 338968, www.the-terrace.co.ukwww.janegotto.co.uk