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.

NHS releases newly collected FGM figures – NSPCC ‘shocked’

fgmThe NSPCC is our nominated charity for 2014 and we have long sought to raise awareness of the horrors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on this blog. So like the NSPCC we were shocked to hear the first NHS figures collected on the incidence of this barbaric practice, released yesterday.

John Cameron from the NSPCC said: “These are shocking figures and prove that FGM is very much a live public health issue. This NHS data shows just how vital it is that health professionals are trained to spot the signs of FGM so we can ensure that women and girls who are subjected to this brutal practice get the post-traumatic support they deserve.”

467 new cases of girls and women needing treatment after female genital mutilation in England were identified last month. Another 1,279 current cases were receiving treatment according to Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) figures.

We have always found it difficult to believe that although FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, no one has yet been convicted. More than half of the reported cases are in London, but all regions in England have seen cases reported.

The BBC reported Kingsley Manning, the chairman of the HSCIC, as saying: “Having accurate data about this crime is an important step in helping prevent its occurrence in the future.”

We know that up to 170,000 women and girls living in the UK may have undergone this procedure, and although earlier this year we reported that Prime Minister David Cameron had committed to ensuring  that any parents who allowed their daughters to go through the procedure would face prosecution, we have yet to hear of any cases coming to court.

To find out more about FGM and how to join the campaign against it, see the World Health Organisation site here

 

FGM summit: British PM calls for end ‘in this generation’

_76432219_female_mutilation_20142207_464As you may know, here at the Terrace we are keen to highlight the issue of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and campaign for the banning of the practice, to save so many girls and young women from lifelong pain and enduring health issues.

So we were pleased to hear that Prime Minister David Cameron, talking at a global summit hosted by the UK and by UNICEF, called for FGM (and childhood marriage) to be ended within a generation. Now we need to see real action.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said:

“The fact that 30 million girls are at risk of being cut in the coming years clearly means that we have a big challenge on our hands….’ and  Priscilla Karim, who was forced to undergo FGM in Sierra Leone at the age of just 9, told the BBC of her ordeal:

“I felt the worst pain of my life and a heavy object sitting on my chest and I just passed out…..It’s like a taboo, they don’t tell you about it. You cannot tell anybody.”

The BBC News website reporting on the summit offers some vital facts and highlights the many issues facing young women at risk in the coming years if FGM continues. This is despite growing global calls for the eradication of the procedure and the news that, in Britain at least,  failure to report FGM (FGM  has been illegal here for a number of years) will in itself become a criminal offence. Do take a look and join us in calling for this child abuse (for that is what it is) to stop.

 

 

FGM follow up – DPP calls for mandatory reporting of cases.

DPP Alison Saunders

DPP Alison Saunders

Our last post was a call for greater awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and our horror at the way the practise of cutting young girls can continue in communities in Britain seemingly without fear of prosecution.

To write on the subject last week was good timing. Over the weekend reports and comment in the national press indicated that the challenge of eradicating FGM is gaining support and prosecutions will become more common. However, it is still far from easy to see how this will come about.

The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has criticised medical staff for the poor number of referrals. Only 11 cases of female genital mutilation have been referred for prosecution by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service in the last three years, even though at least 144 complaints were made to police. The first prosecution for female genital mutilation was announced two weeks ago. It is 29 years after it became illegal in England and Wales.

The DPP was appearing before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, the Chairman of which, Keith Vaz said they had taken evidence that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales had been subjected to FGM. “Eleven referrals sounds a very small figure,” he said.

The DPP claims it is lack of evidence that prevents prosecutions proceeding, rather than loopholes in the legislation. That is why she wants reporting by health staff to become compulsory, but she would not go so far as to say compulsory examination of girls, such as that required in France, should become part of British law.

We appreciate that this is a legal issue that is fraught with difficulties, but it is too important to be lost in a mire of discussion. Even the announcement of a prosecution has met with concern, as the case is not straightforward, involving as it does a repair rather than the actual act of FGM.

What do you think? Are we guilty of talking too much and doing too little? How should medical staff approach this? Are you in favour of compulsory examination of girls? After all it has almost eradicated FGM in France.

We would love to know your views. This is a subject we will come back to and a campaign we are committed to supporting.

 

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): It is, simply, child abuse.

Female-circumcision-006On the 14th March The Guardian reported that for the first time a doctor will stand trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation (FGM).  13-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a died following an alleged operation in his clinic last year. FGM has been banned in Egypt since 2008 but may doctors still carry out the operation on a private basis, as parents see it as an acceptable ‘rite of passage’ for their daughters.

How much do you know about FGM?  The work of charities and the government is raising awareness, but it is still a practice that remains safely hidden in many local communities. Female genital mutilation  is actually  a form of child abuse which damages girls and women, both physically and mentally by using a procedure  which The World Health Organization (WHO) describes as one that involves ‘ partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’ (WHO, 2013). Communities practising FGM cite  reasons for its use such as social acceptance, family honour, marriageability or even the mistaken belief that it makes childbirth easier.  However, even a brief reading of the research undertaken on the subject tells of the short term  risk of shock, bleeding, infections and damage to nearby organs; as well as the possibility of death. Longer term effects  include very painful sex, abscesses, complications in pregnancy and, contrary to cultural belief, a greater risk of childbirth dangerous to mother and child. Psychological damage is common; in one study 80% of women  who had undergone and FGM procedure suffered from depression or anxiety disorders.

In Britain it is a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act to ‘perform FGM or to assist a girl to perform FGM on herself’. It can incur a maximum prison term of fourteen years, but prosecution seems low in comparison to the potential numbers of girls and women involved.  Most families do not see FGM as abuse and might accuse anyone intervening of being discriminatory. We must not shirk our responsibilities towards these girls.

We support the charity NSPCC both locally in the South West and nationally, in its campaign to stop this barbaric practice. The technique is  ‘traditionally carried out by a female with no medical training, without anaesthetics or antiseptic treatments, using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades’ (NHS Choices 2013). The girl is sometimes forcibly restrained, held down even by a parent. FGM is usually carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, but the majority of cases occur between the ages of 5 and 8 years. Can you imagine the distress that must cause? Research has identified that tens of thousands of women in Britain live with the debilitating consequences of FGM and more than 20,000 young girls may be at risk. The crime is hidden, so figures are hard to establish, but these numbers may very well be much higher.

Communities in more than 28 African countries practise FGM, along with countries in the Middle East and Asia. The NHS has found that particular cities in the UK have more incidences of FGM, including London, Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield, Northampton, Birmingham, and Oxford. But nowhere is immune.

The NSPCC has established a free 24-hour FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 or its email at  fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk should you or someone you know be concerned that a child be at risk of FGM. After seven months the helpline had already received more than 150 calls.

forwardIf you would like to know more about FGM, go to the World Health Organisation website for full details,  or take a look at the wonderful Forward ( Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development) site. It makes horrifying reading. It is too late for Sohair al-Bata’a, but not for the thousands of girls at risk in this country. Whether we are parents or not we owe it to them to ensure this abuse is ended.

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.