What is going wrong that one in five girls and one in eight boys (16-24 years) have psychiatric symptoms? These figures are much worse than a few years ago. Self harm is increasing especially in girls.
Why is this? This particular research does not address the question, but we can certainly ask whether the internet and social media might have something to do with it. Girls are more prone than boys to have self-image issues and excessive use of social media can feed the thought that everybody else has a nicer looking body.
In addition, do remember that a face-book friend is not a real friend. Constant checking on your twitter feed, just to make sure you don’t miss out, feeds paranoia.
So maybe social isolation and unrealistic expectations are important.
Remember that adolescence doesn’t finish until the early twenties – just this group who are so vulnerable. All this suggests that it is very likely that your children are at increasing risk, so be on the look-out. Warning signs include irritability, negative thinking, self harm and social isolation. They are very unlikely to accept they are depressed, so do not be seduced by self reports that they are OK. Trust your instinct.
All this is important because a lot can be done to help, and the life trajectory changed for the better. Actually, you can grow from a crisis, even if it doesn’t seem it at the time. By the way, don’t ever say this to your child.
What helps? Keeping up communication; ask them to explain social media to you. The very process can be therapeutic for all concerned. Show interest in them. In my view, antidepressants are almost always worth a trial. Talking treatment and group therapy are useful; access to a service is the problem.
What happened to fun and contentment?
Dr Andy Macaulay, Consultant Psychiatrist is commenting after reading http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37504679