This is Children’s Mental Health Week with Place2Be, a leading children’s mental health charity, stating that many young people find it difficult to think positively about themselves. It goes on to say that low self-esteem affects more than 8 in 10 of the school pupils who use the organisation for support. Now, although you might expect a high proportion of those who turn to such a charity for support, there is still, in my view, real cause for concern.
In writing this, I’m very aware that the generation that brought me up went through the Second World War, which can hardly have been a bundle of laughs. Moreover, despite the optimism of the period that followed, the 1960’s, this included the Cold War with its threat of, what was euphemistically called Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. What a wonderfully appropriate acronym.
Yet, I think these current times, without necessarily being so dramatic, are more difficult for young people. Indeed, my reading of the situation leads me to thinks that this generation is, indeed, growing up in a world that would give them cause for concern. This, at an age when you would hope that optimism and just that hope might be better for them and society as a whole. After all, surely any parent or relative would want that for their nearest and dearest. What we have now is far from that, a situation made worse by the global and instantaneous nature of modern communications and the tendency of the news media to concentrate on problems. Perfectly understandable but hardly conducive to the generation of optimism.
Now, like many others, I’ve had my share of mental health issues. This has included three bouts of depression and a breakdown; the latter of which I have described as the most effective diet plan ever. These, especially the latter, weren’t pleasant. Yet, with the support of my family, I survived them. Moreover, I went on to considerably better things and to have a life of some contentment. However, what I learnt in the process was the insidious nature of mental health problems. For myself, I’d always seen the bouts of depression, not as anything that I was prone to but, rather, a series of isolated events. I now realise that they weren’t. They were, in fact, created by the circumstances of an early childhood during which hope and optimism were, largely, absent.
So, is there a point to all this? Well, yes there is. It’s to try to start turning the tide; a process that begins with celebrating our young people and their achievements. One in which we don’t blame them for the state of the word but support them as the inheritors of problems created, often unwittingly, by previous generations. So (and this may embarrass your offspring) make sure you give them a hug and tell them how proud you are of them when they go off to school or work today. Much like a good breakfast, it will help them to get through the day and, if repeated, help create the foundation for a better future.