It's official, our kids are increasingly afflicted by mental health problems. According to a BBC report, one in ten children aged between one and fifteen have a mental health problem. Today, as I heard of yet another vulnerable child who has been withdrawn from mainstream school due to a mental health crisis, I started to wonder why.
The problems are probably greatest amongst teenagers and our family has personal experience of this.What is for sure is that parenting a teen is not easy, it makes looking after a toddler seem a doddle!
Bullying is nothing new, but nowadays it is taking new forms, with kids making use of their computers and mobile phones. Abusive text messages are easily sent at any time of night or day. Pictures or film of bullying is circulated via phones or posted on websites such as MySpace or YouTube. I was pointed in the direction of such a clip this weekend. I won't go into details but it sickened me and the victim's full name was posted.
Eating disorders and self-harming are becoming widespread and although more prevalent amongst girls, boys are affected too. How much this of this is serious and how much is a fashion statement is unclear. Gangs abound in and outside schools. There seems to be no place for 'regular kids', as son 1 describes himself and his friends.
So what is driving our kids to such states of despair? Is it the school system and the ever constant 'pressure' to perform? Is it the celebrity culture in which children are constantly trying to copy the looks and figures of stick-thin models or the behaviour of out-of-control stars? Is it the array of magazines which are constantly promoting celebrities and designer goods, or is it a society in which even quite young girls are sexualised?
Depression is increasingly common amongst teenage boys, possibly because they fear they just can't meet up to the expectations of those girls, in their plunge necklines and push-up bras, who are trying to look like Kate Moss and lusting after sexy film and pop stars.
Something to think about as I flick through son 1's copy of Heat magazine...