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!

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

 

Female Genital Mutilation – a cross party report states it remains an ‘ongoing national scandal’

female-genital-mutilation-1A report on female genital mutilation has been published by MPs today (3rd July), and it makes uncomfortable reading for those of us committed to the campaign to end the practice.

We have written on FGM twice before on this blog here and here and are saddened to hear that the report of the cross-party Commons home affairs committee states clearly that it continues to be an ‘ongoing national scandal’.

The committee heard from victims, health and social workers, police and lawyers. Whilst not going so far as to endorse mandatory gynaecological checks it did say that a case could be made for the adoption of the French model – regular checks for at-risk young women and children.

It is shocking that around 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation in the UK. Every one of them is let down by our society if we fail to deal with this matter properly.
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP chairing the committee said:

“Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure in recent years to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK.”

The BBC, reporting on the issue on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, spoke to Dr Comfort Momoh, a public health specialist at St Thomas’s Hospital, in London, who said there was a “lack of training” and a “lack of awareness” around the issue among health professionals.

She said: “If our so-called professionals don’t have the knowledge, if our so-called professionals don’t know how to identify groups who might be at risk, how do we expect the community to report cases to us?”
Although the Department for Education has taken steps to draw this matter to the attention of all schools, the committee feels they can still do more and there must surely be a case for training for teachers over and above standard safeguarding procedures.

The Guardian newspaper reports today that campaigners, whilst welcoming the report, are frustrated that it has not gone further, making a failure to report FGM a crime to ensure any professionals, currently reluctant to become involved in cases of FGM, take steps to protect any girl they feel may be vulnerable. The report only recommends the criminalisation of a failure to report ‘if reporting of the practice does not increase in the next 12 months’. They have also called for more detailed guidelines for professionals and funding for grass roots action.

Clearly there is a lot of support for action, but there should surely be no further delay in implementing these changes?

 

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.