Helen Martin: A generation crippled by this age of anxiety

A growing 'epidemic' across the world is mental health problems among teenagers. And as a result, in Scotland and elsewhere, there are deep concerns about the lack of support, waiting times for consultation and delivery of treatment.

Monday, 15th October 2018, 2:40 pm
Updated Monday, 15th October 2018, 2:42 pm

A recent UK Department of Education survey (which doesn’t cover Scotland but brings a similar result) revealed that over one in three teen girls suffer from anxiety and depression, more than double the rate among teenage boys.

Scottish research shows bullying, low self-esteem, friendship issues, psychological effects of puberty and increasing sexual awareness are among the many contributors to mental imbalance, leading to lack of confidence affecting education, causing self-harming and basically leaving kids miserable as hell.

Parents are awash with anguish, fear and the lack of support. Grandparents are bewildered, coming from a generation a decade or two post-war where such an epidemic didn’t even exist in an era where “pull yourself together and get on with it” applied to most – and worked.

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Alison Dickie: Let's talk about better mental health

Back then of course, it was a different world. Jobs were aplenty for the future. Obesity wasn’t a problem. Being as good-looking and trendy as celebs wasn’t such a priority. Social media didn’t exist so nor did the trolling and vicious posting. There was little or no need for designer labels, smart phones, tech gadgets etc in a less expensive world. No-one, apart from possibly aristocrats and millionaires, approved of snobbery or considered friends had to come from similar backgrounds.

Schools operated differently too. Tests were weekly occurrences. Each child learned at their own individual desk in classes of 30 or more in a highly disciplined environment with detention and belts, which most parents followed up with another punishment. Teachers had very little knowledge or involvement with families other than parents’ nights. Not necessarily what we’d want for children today! But back to the modern problem.

One action to deal with mental health issues affecting teenagers now is training teachers in mental health expertise, at least enough to recognise issues and help find support. It’s a serious addition to the pressures on schools and teachers which now extend beyond academic or practical education. To some extent they are dieticians, social workers, abuse detectors, smart phone controllers, challenged to come up with complex persuasive abilities rather than discipline, responsible for many things that once were delivered exclusively (or not) by parents.

Teachers themselves are not immune to mental ill health, work and life stresses, bullying, or other personal issues. And if the system doesn’t have enough psychologists and psychiatrists without months of waiting lists, how can teachers access sufficient support for pupils? How can anyone other than a mental health professional faultlessly distinguish between anxiety, depression, bullying, aggression or a naturally morose personality?

Wouldn’t the best tactic be to initiate urgent research into why teen mental health is now such a huge and growing problem? Precisely why it exists today? Why can’t teenagers cope with the modern age and how can they all be trained to do so? Which changing aspects of society are causing them such damage and how can these be stopped or controlled? If we have really, and unintentionally, created a world in which teenagers find it depressingly ghastly and damaging to live, we cannot let that continue. Another extra bit of teacher training isn’t a solution.

Tories back Brexit over the Union

Independence is now broadly recognised as on a high. Of course, not everyone would vote for it, especially Scottish Tories.

But polling among English Conservatives carried out and released last week by Edinburgh and Cardiff universities was enlightening, to some dispiriting, and to Indy Yes voters, another feather in the cap.

It found that 79 per cent of Tory Party members south of the Border would rather see Scottish independence than abandon Brexit. Scarily, 75 per cent would rather sacrifice the Ulster peace process than let it stand in the way of Brexit. Our uni interpreted that as: “May’s ‘precious union’ has little support in Brexit Britain”.

Well, it seems Tory Brexit England is certainly in favour of independence!

The inherent risk built into online banking

THE head of the banking trade body UK Finance, Stephen Jones, said if banks had to pay refunds to victims of fraudulent transfers, the costs would simply be passed on to customers with extra transaction taxes.

MPs, Which? and other protestors were furious and horrified at that. To be fair to Mr Jones, at least he was being honest. Of course, that’s how banks would deal with it.

Critics made the point that most victims were online bankers, many forced to take that route by branch closures. That’s true as well. But the scale of online banking, fraud and closures, was made possible by the millions who voluntarily and cheerfully opted for online in the first place . . . because it was “convenient”, while happily and naively not considering the risks.

Amateur self-bankers could always be conned by cunning, techy-smart criminals and one way or another, banks would never use their own profits to compensate. That was always the inherent danger.

No to old age new mothers

IVF treatment is increasing the number of new mums over 50 and even 60 around the world. In Scotland or the UK (wherever we end up) that should be illegal. That’s one “nanny state” control I’d support.