"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

The mental health of young people

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, The mental health of young people

"It's a neat but terribly worrying paradox. Now children are the most physically safe, but mentally fragile generation in history. Tragic individual cases make headlines, but a series of surveys in recent weeks, a barrage of statistics show that they're not exceptions. We already knew from an OECD report that British children were the unhappiest in the Western world. A YouGov poll published this week for the Prince's Trust suggested the number of youngsters that think life simply isn't worth living has doubled in a decade to one in five. Teenage suicides reflect that. They've nearly doubled over the same period, as has the number of girls being treated by the NHS for self harming, boys now too. Three children in every class, we're told, have a diagnosable mental disorder, and it's getting worse every year. So what's wrong with our children? It can't just be the internet. Are we failing to look after them, or are we protecting them too much? The snowflake generation shielded from the rough edges of life by helicopter parents and teachers tiptoeing around their sensitivities. Are the snowflakes melting? It's Children's Mental Health Week, but is that part of the problem? Are we medicalizing the normal stresses of adolescence and making them worse? Or is it more complicated, a toxic mix of anxieties about identity, ill-defined boundaries, educational pressures? What's wrong with our kids? And who should do what about it?...

I think part of the problem with awareness raising campaigns is in a sense for me there’s just far too many of them. And they actually raise anxiety. If you think about it, there's a new awareness raising campaign every day. I've actually looked at this. There’s awareness raising every day of the year. So we're constantly bombarded with things that are causing a risk to our health and our wellbeing...

‘The thing about literacy is you have to learn a language. So one of the things that I've wondered is where, you know, primary school [students] learn that literacy that language of describing themselves as in trauma, depressed, having panic attacks, anxiety - they haven't learned that on the playground from each other, have they?’

‘Well, again, one of the problems is language actually, because in English, we have a very limited emotional vocabulary. When you look at other languages, they have a much broader amount of words that they can use to describe their emotions and their mental health. So if I say to you, I'm feeling anxious, that could be anything from common or garden anxiety right through to an anxiety disorder, and one is a medical issue, and the other is not’...

‘The more interventions there’s been by governments, NGOs, in terms of mental health, the more you've got generations of young people who self diagnose themselves and describe themselves through medicalized, pathologised language like this’...
if we encourage it, if we basically say, keep talking about it, then seven or eight and nine year olds are gonna see that this is the way you get attention...

‘Over the same period, that we've seen these huge increases in anxiety and depression, what has been the change in the child's real world, the biggest change is that children have been deprived of play, of real play. Of going outside and playing... there has just been a huge decline over the decades, accelerating in the most recent couple of decades, in children's opportunities to just go out and play with other children... you were playing with other kids, no adults around to solve the problems for you. You learn how to solve the problems, you learn how to deal with the minor bullying that was occurring, you learned how to negotiate with your peers, you learn that you can control things. Play is something that you create, you learn that you can control things, you can solve problems. If you're always being in a situation where there's some adult there, the adults are solving the problems for you and you are not learning that you're capable of it...

Sometimes people think that the reason children aren’t playing outdoors with other kids, physically playing is because the computer is so seductive. I don't think that's the real cause. There're actually studies showing that kids would be preferring to play physically with other kids than playing on the computer...

Most of the research suggests that computer play far from being the problem is the saving grace. For example, there was a major study done by the University of Columbia School of mental health of over 3000 children aged six to 11, in which they looked at how much time they were playing on, playing computer games. And independently of that they measured, had measures of their intellectual, social and emotional functioning… the children who were playing more were actually doing better socially, emotionally and intellectually… we are no longer allowing children to have real adventures outdoors. So they can have virtual adventures on the computer. And now some people want to take that away from them, too. And then they will have no adventures. We are not allowing them to go out and socialize with other children away from adults, which children have always needed to do...

I can't believe the school is now any harder than it was in the 1950s when people learnt trigonometry and Latin at the age of eight or whatever. Also definitions of childhood itself have changed... the notion of children facing stresses they never would have faced in history, when, of course, our very notions of childhood and adolescence are contemporary inventions, they did not exist for the Victorians. So someone at the age of 14… in 1850 might find themselves working down a mine. The idea there is a particular particular horrific, dystopian scenario that teenagers find themselves in today compared to the past"
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