The Department for Education recently conducted in-depth interviews with thousands of teenagers aged 14 and 15. The study revealed some interesting and worrying statistics about young people, substance use and teenage depression. Experts suggest that the figures from the report point to a ‘slow-growing epidemic’ of mental health issues in schools. The highlights of the study include the following:
- The number of girls with poor mental health rose by 10 per cent in the past decade – they were twice as likely as boys to report symptoms.
- Some students said that pressure to achieve was affecting their self-confidence, and that they did not feel in control of their futures.
- The study found that 37 per cent of girls had three or more symptoms of psychological distress – for example, feeling worthless or unable to concentrate. This was compared to 15 per cent of boys.
- Depression and anxiety in boys has actually fallen since 2005
- Pupils with parents educated to degree level were found to be 5 per cent more likely to experience mental distress than those without.
Experts have suggested that social media plays an important role in contributing to increased drug use, as it stops children ‘switching off’ after school.
Marjorie Wallace, Chief Executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: “Over the period covered by the report we have seen a very disturbing change in admissions to hospital for self-harm in under-16s – this has gone up by 52%.” She told The Times that her charity had been contacted by worried school heads.
Furthermore, according to NHS guidelines in the UK, children as young as five are showing signs of depression and nearly 80,000 children in the UK are living with mental illness.
What is even more alarming is that the UK has the highest rate of self-harming in Europe – as many as 1 in 10 children self-harm. Mental health experts attribute cyberbullying, social media pressures and breakdown of the family unit for this rise of mental health issues in children.
How to identify teenage depression?
As a parent, caregiver or educator, it’s necessary to understand the warning signs of depression in children and adolescents. Young people often suffer in silence and are not as likely as adults to talk about their emotional distress or difficulties. Also, unlike adults, depression might appear very differently in children and adolescents than it does in adults. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Irritability, anger or hostility are prominent symptoms in children with depression, as opposed to overt sadness.
- Indifference or withdrawal from social life and daily activities/routine
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Securus can help schools gauge students behaviour and monitor for signs of depression. If anything is picked up, schools can then intervene and offer appropriate help and advice accordingly.