Friday, 24 July 2015

Britain's kids are stressed out and its all our fault.

According to a poll conducted by management support services service The Key Britain's school leaders are more concerned over pupils' mental health than any other issue.

Two thirds of the 1180 headteachers questioned said it was their top concern with domestic violence (58%) and cyber-bullying (55%) also scoring highly.

Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders told the BBC said there had 'certainly been an increase in the number of pupils who are displaying different types of mental health problems.' These, he added, often arose as a result of 'difficult home backgrounds or a form of abuse or issues such as ADHD.'

As local authority budgets continue to be squeezed schools are finding it difficult to get support for students with mental health problems and are employing their own counsellors, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy estimates that between 64 and 80 of schools have taken this option, they are also drawing heavily on resources from the voluntary sector.

The Department of Health told the BBC this week that it had increased the NHS mental health budget over the past two years, a survey carried out by charity Young Minds found that most councils in England had frozen or cut their spending on mental health services for young people over the same period.

There is something rotten in the state of childhood in modern Britain and it says nothing good about the sort of country we are becoming. Our young people are being slowly poisoned by a toxic stew of false expectations and mixed messages being fed to them by adults who should know better.

We drive them through the hoops of an education system so obsessed with measuring results actual learning is often pushed off the agenda entirely and then tell them their grades are worthless because the exams have been made too easy. Deluge them with advertising and messages that only physical perfection is acceptable; then throw up out hands in horror when they turn out to be shallow and image obsessed with no aspirations beyond owning the latest i-phone.

Just to sour things even further thanks to five years of austerity the poorest of our young people have has heaped upon them the long term physical and mental health problems attendant on not being properly fed or clothed during their formative years.

How we treat our young people it a guide to the general health of society; in which case ours is seriously sick. Like the parents in Larkin's poem we have visited upon our children all the faults of an adult world that is painfully ill at ease with itself, with a few more added on for good measure.

The solution to the problem is obvious, for a start the budget for mental health services needs to be ring-fenced so that NHS trusts and local authorities can't loot it when funds elsewhere are low. We also need to talk openly and honestly about mental health problems as something anyone can experience, there has been some progress in this area during recent years but there is still a long way to go.

We need to let kids be kids, testing in schools should be rigorous; but there is no need for it to be relentless. Education should be about more than just producing exam results for middle aged politician to argue about.

Children and adults alike would be healthier and probably happier if we turned down the volume on the jabbering of the advertising industry, shopped a little less and socialised a lot more. Far from opening the shops for longer on Sundays we should be thinking about closing them altogether, if you can't be bothered to buy a thing on the other six days of the week you probably don't really want it.

Sadly none of this will happen, at least not in the next five years anyway. The Tories are wedded to an education policy so out of touch and backward looking you'd be forgiven for thinking Mr Chips had been disinterred and give a job as a special adviser. As for Labour, they're so consumed with the need to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming party they have lost contact with reality.

The good news is that after five years of the resulting nonsense the electorate, always far more sensible than the politicians who presume to lead them, will be so heartily sick of business as usual they might be disposed to take a chance on something different.

You'd hope so anyway, not least since the alternative is, as Philip Larkin, the Wordsworth of suburban angst, put it generation hands misery on to generation so that it 'deepens like a coastal shelf,' our young people deserve better than that.

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