Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Empower our children - don't label them

This is going to be a controversial one I know, so strap yourselves in. But I feel the need to speak out against the mental health labels we are placing on children.

I believe in the majority of cases, we are blurring the lines between the perfectly normal transformative emotions and anxieties that teenagers go through and clinical mental health problems.

Not a week goes by without a headline declaring soaring mental health issues in children and this week is no exception. Today we are confronted with the news that a quarter of girls under 14 are depressed. Nine per cent of boys in the same age group were also found to have depression.

These figures come from the results of a 13 question government-funded survey. Questions included, in the last fortnight did you feel miserable and sad, did you cry a lot, and did you feel you could never be as good as other children?

Without doubt there is phenomenal pressure on children, especially as they reach their teenage years over body image, exam pressure, bullying and fitting in with their peers. Social media now plays a huge part in exacerbating the problem. There is no let up for children. They can't shut the door on their school day. Messages are being churned out from their phones around the clock.

And that's why I think labelling these children, parcelling them up and dealing with them clinically, is extremely unhelpful. Children need to know there is nothing wrong or abnormal, medically or otherwise, with what they are going through - that most children feel the same way, even that girl – or boy – you know that one, who appears to be ultra confident and happy, the one you all want to be.

They need to know that they will look back and realise that that was a tough time but they got through it, that they can be exactly who they are meant to be, not what other people expect them to be. That school exams are not the be all and end all and there is a whole bright, exciting future out there for them beyond the school gates. That they don't have to be the one fitting in. It is far cooler to be the one on the fringes setting new trends.


Empower these children with this knowledge, instead of bringing them down with medical labels, and their screens can churn out all the negative messages they like. It won't matter a jot.

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