Children’s mental health in the UK was discussed in the May 2021 issue of The Children’s Society. They were able to evaluate the statistics, and although the exact number of children currently suffering from mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, remains unknown, it has been found that one in 6 children aged between 5-16 is likely to have a mental health problem.
Children’s mental health crisis
In the last three years, mental health issues causing potential problems among youngsters have increased by 50 percent. As a mother of two below the age of 10, I asked: “Why?”
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Children shouldn’t have to wait for a mental health crisis to seek help. However, it leads me to ask, having suffered a mental health crisis myself previously: “Is it so easy to define when one goes through a mental health crisis?”
As a sufferer, I can tell you categorically that it is not. More times than not, those who are suffering will seek external help on the advice of a friend or relative. But, unfortunately, sufferers themselves can’t always determine when and if they are in fact suffering. This is why any available services must be well advertised and easy to reach directly, something which isn’t always the case in current times.
Services offering aid are overstretched
There is still a stigma regarding mental health for adults and children alike. Services offering aid to those suffering are overstretched and have always had their limitations. Children who may seek help at home then find themselves with parents who don’t know where to turn. Why is it still so difficult to access help when required?
It has been found that women aged between 17-22 are grouped as “most at risk of developing a mental health problem.” However, it is understood that 34 percent of young people who seek mental health assistance are still not accepted into treatment, despite referrals from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Children are turning to social media for help
The Children’s Society also shared in their post that 75 percent of young people with mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need. As the numbers increase, young people lose hope, and many find their own coping strategies. Psychotherapists on the social media platform TikTok have amassed millions of followers and likes in the past year alone.
As young people and adults of today’s generation struggle with seeking or receiving help externally, more and more have turned to online platforms. If this is helping as much as many believe, why are the numbers still rising?
TikTok is the fastest-growing platform on social media. It has accumulated approximately 689 million active users globally in the last three years.
Social media’s global growth is attributed to the usage of smartphones. For example, the shopping automation app sixads published in June 2021 that the global mobile social network usage rate was 42 percent.
In February 2020, the BBC reported that 50 percent of 10-year-olds in the UK owned a smartphone. However, the pressures of social media, whether it is the number of likes achieved or “picture perfect” posts, have proven to be unhealthy. Surveys have found that social media usage has left young people and adults feeling depressed, lonely, and with low self-esteem. So why are they, and we, so drawn to it?
Social media hurts more than it helps
Social media can be a positive tool to help with growth. It provides a platform for us to be heard and is an outreach always available in today’s society.
However, psychologists have been looking into the adverse effects that social media has on mental well-being over the last few years, especially that of children, and it has been consistently found that excessive use of social media is associated with poorer mental health.
As present-day parents of this new generation, the speed at which technologies are emerging is frightening. Residing in the concrete jungle of inner London, days of throwing sticks in fields with the kids are far outnumbered by days behind screens. The impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has also had a massive effect.
Parents need to set an example
I am more than guilty of allowing my children screen time, but we as adults hold the responsibility of keeping ourselves well grounded. We must do so by encouraging good physical health and by talking to one another. This does not mean to strangers online or acquaintances we barely say hello to when passing on the street, but to each other and in person.
The youth of today, whether they are the babies in arms, children jumping off their climbing frames, or teenagers on their way home from class, are the new generation. But, unfortunately, our current generation isn’t setting the best example due to our own mobile usage and social media consumption. It has been said that Millennials spend, on average, 3.7 hours per day on their smartphones, with Gen X closely behind with an average daily usage of 3.0 hours.
Researchers have often stated that a daily screen usage of 5 hours or more increases health issues among users, such as heart disease and obesity. With social media platform followings on the rise, we need to be the generation that steps back.
Parents have the responsibility to come forward and be more present. Being present in our everyday lives and finding happiness away from our screens, even for a few given moments in a day, could create a whirlpool-like effect that impacts all who feel it. We need to remind ourselves of life’s meaning without the need to Google it. If we can’t grasp it back before technology takes over (with our full consent), then children of the next generation will be left to pick up the pieces we ignorantly left behind.