Are we being fair to our teenagers?

The Good Life Letter 

4th May 2018

  • How you came to my rescue and why I am so grateful
  • A place to talk is all that is needed
  • Technology deserves a hard time but maybe it is not totally to blame

First of all today I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has written to me with their tips for controlling the upcoming slug invasion.

One of the common ones was to spray them with a mixture of vinegar and soda or salt which I am happy to do although I am a bit worried about my lime-loving plants.

Another popular option was to conduct night time vigils and commit heinous acts of violence on the offenders...but I don’t have the stomach for that.

Again, the chance to capture the beasties and hurl them into the middle of a field or such-like could be a possible answer but then I would feel guilty about spreading the menace.

One that I am definitely going to try was sent in by Tony B who suggests approaching your local coffee shop and asking for a free bucket of coffee grounds which get spread around the plants.

Genius, a possible cure as well as free mulch – Tony ends by saying, “If you can't smell of roses why not smell of coffee???????”

I think we can all say Amen to that.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s letter.

I had a problem that I was able to share with you all and within days you had come to my aid with a range of perfectly good and reliable solutions, and this set me thinking about how fantastic this approach would be for many of the issues we face in health too.

Leaving aside the fact that that was why I set the Good Life Letter up in the first place, I think that many of the issues that affect us and our families don’t always get the airing they need.

Too often we are prepared to put up with discomfort, pain, upset and fear because we worry that others will judge us badly – or because we simply don’t have anyone to talk to in the first place.

GPs constantly tell me that they get patients in that they know they could help if they only had more time to talk to them and listen to what is really happening in their lives, but that is not how doctors work, get organised, or paid for.

The wealthy can book themselves into therapy clinics and get access to levels of support that are simply not affordable to most of us, so where do the majority of UK citizens turn to in their hour of need?

The global village is needed

When the demands of life begin to weigh heavy on our shoulders we all benefit from having a chance to talk this through with someone.

In the past this might have been friends, parents or even associates down the pub – but in today’s society admitting that things aren’t going so well, or that you are struggling to make sense of the world or even just that you can’t make ends meet financially is often seen as a weakness or simply as something you brought on yourself.

Phrases like the ‘worried well’ or ‘internet hypochondriacs’ get bandied about to describe people who often have a genuine health concern or are depressed and anxious, and so they tend to lie low and allow their problems to fester.

Back in the olden days (i.e. thirty years ago!) the sense of community seemed stronger and everyone knew everyone else, to the point that people were able to predict when a fellow villager was under stress and took the time to bring them around.

Often the phrase used to coax the issue out of the suffer was “a problem shared is a problem halved!”

This came to mind when I was reading some recent reports about the incidence of teenage depression and mental illnesses having increased by a huge amount – the figures don’t make for pleasant reading:

“Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. The number of children and young people turning up in A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009 and, in the past three years, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have also almost doubled.

“In a 2016 survey for Parent Zone, 93 per cent of teachers reported seeing increased rates of mental illness among children and teenagers and 90 per cent thought the issues were getting more severe, with 62 per cent dealing with a pupil's mental-health problem at least once a month and an additional 20 per cent doing so on a weekly or even daily basis.”

How can our children be suffering to such an extent?

Is technology to blame?

When it comes to issues with the young the usual suspect is technology:

“It’s because they are all face down in their phones rather than talking to each other!”

“The internet has replaced the playground.”

“Facebook leads to reinforcement of psychoses, it is no wonder our kids are so ill – they are being brainwashed.”

You must have heard these or similar, maybe you’ve even uttered them yourself as a surly group of kids pass you in the street tapping away on their screens. I know I have.

But when I sat down and started to look at the evidence to support this way of thinking, I found there to be a very weak correlation with usage of technology and incidence of mental health issues in youth.

What I did discover was that Britain has a habit of blaming the newest developments for failing health. For instance, in the 19th Century people blamed a form of neurosis on ‘Railway Sickness’ that they attributed to the ‘unnatural motion’ of trains.

Maybe the issue is that we, the adults, prefer to let the children sit and play on their phones because they are not bothering us, rather than engaging them in dialogue?

How many families now sit down at least once a week to a meal all together? In these forums real discussion and interaction can take place and problems and issues get shared.

My own brood have always enjoyed a communal Sunday lunch, often with grandparents thrown in for good measure, and that seems right to me.

No doubt bedrooms full of TVs, gaming platforms and mobile phones are a distraction for teenagers, but it should still be the case that the adults take the lead and seek to offer them a safe place to talk.

It worked for me and my slug problem, who knows, it could be the answer to something a whole lot more important.

Yours, as always


Ray
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