For once, a moral panic that could be useful. "Heavy web use harms children," screamed a Daily Mail front page this week. Others followed suit with comparably alarming headlines. To be fair, the concern is not new, and to suggest that it's all the fault of the web is misleading. But it is absolutely right to highlight some very disturbing trends in child and adolescent mental health that are accelerating.Those trends being..?
Back in 2004, the first academic studies of trends in child and adolescent mental health began to report a worrying deterioration, but no one was identifying what was driving it. The obvious point here is that this was before the explosion in social media. So the origins of this crisis – and it is a crisis – do not lie in massive overuse of the web, but elsewhere.It seems our children are getting madder – or are they?
In the last three to four years, there has been a steep rise in self-harm. Childline reports that in 2013 it experienced a 41% increase in reports of self-harm and a 33% increase of children reporting suicidal thoughts over the previous year. Public Health England concludes that 30% of English adolescents have sub-clinical mental health problems. These figures are catastrophic: we are raising children who are ill.Are we?
Or are we simply misdiagnosing children with normal, everyday adolescent issues – what used to be regarded as ‘growing pains’ - as ‘ill’?
For the benefits, for the attention you get, for the absolution it brings from any responsibility?
Or for the self-aggrandisement of the identity politics crowd and their continued employment?
This leaped out at me in one of the local papers I trawl for material:
Becky Holloway, who leads the group with her friend Libby Stevens, said: “Quite a lot of my friends have mental health issues and I have seen the bullying that goes on.
“We wanted to raise awareness because we thought they don’t get enough support.”I can’t remember anyone having ‘mental health issues’ when I was at school. There were a few who were distinctly ‘odd’ (and would no doubt be tagged with a syndrome today) but this was considered just part of the normal spectrum of the human condition and – so long as they were not dangerous to themselves or others – they were absorbed into the day to day running of school time.
Certainly, no great song and dance was made about it. They were not indulged, or made to feel special. They just…were.
The issue should be the subject of Downing Street crisis seminars, taskforces and tsars – all the usual paraphernalia that indicates that some political will is being mobilised to tackle this.Yes, but does all that ever solve anything? If not…
But the real test of the urgently needed political commitment is spending.Of course. It always comes down to this, doesn’t it?
…one MP in that stiff-upper-lip tradition asked why these youngsters couldn't just "sort themselves out".And we are invited to consider that terribly old fashioned and anachronistic. Madeline, after all, clearly does. She’s been touched by this ‘epidemic’ as have all her progressive friends:
I don't know a family not touched in some way by this epidemic; I don't know a teenager not already dealing with it either personally, in their class, at school or among their friends.Madeline scorns the ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, preferring, no doubt, to wallow in the self-pity, attention-seeking and rampant narcissism that so characterises our current generation of progressives and their future successors to that role.