Children’s happiness and health must come first | Letters
Regarding the state of children’s mental health, your correspondent Mel Wood asked last week why so many children in the UK are deeply unhappy (Letters, September 23). It’s a question we at the Children’s Society are committed to answering and a situation we are determined to change over the next decade.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve asked UK children and young people about their lives and plotted their well-being in our Good Childhood Report. Children told us that school, fear of failure, friendships, and worries about their appearance make them unhappy in their lives. Adolescents are pressured from many angles and held to high standards, which appears to negatively impact their well-being.
These are disturbing trends and we report on them every year. Last year we found that British adolescents have the lowest levels of life satisfaction in most of Europe (‘Fear of Failure’ giving UK children the lowest levels of happiness in Europe). ‘Europe, August 28, 2020). It’s not just teenagers who are teenagers; the report showed that we have a real problem in the UK and that we need government and societal action to change our children’s story.
Well-being is far from a vague concept – it affects all aspects of a child’s life. If the government measured the well-being of children as it does adults, perhaps we could understand why they feel unhappy and be able to come up with policies to improve their well-being. The government is about to budget for the next three years. Kids should never be an afterthought, so wouldn’t this be a great time to put kids first?
Chief Executive Officer, The Children’s Society
In Re Mel Wood’s pre-Ofsted 1980s letter, students were expected to work diligently, and the grades obtained through that diligence would be sufficient to step out and find their place in the world. The students I taught in high school were generally cheerful and happy with what they had accomplished.
In my pastoral role during these years, I have never met a child who self-injures. The “scrutiny” culture of school performance charts introduced later in the 1980s has put pressure on children and teachers since then.
Anything lower than the best grades is no longer good enough, to the point where children have learned that, as a measure of the quality of their school, they have to be able to say “what I need to do to take it to the next level. “for any Ofsted inspector who questioned them on any subject.
“Not good enough” became the culture of education at the precise point in their lives when children should have discovered what is good enough in themselves to be satisfied in their life to come. The government always talks about high standards, but turning the screw in education for 35 years has not produced a nation of young geniuses, but some of the least happy children in the developed world.
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
It was good to read your editorial (September 21) on the need for government to focus on and fund issues affecting children’s mental health and schools. Are there perhaps lessons to be learned from the exemplary speed with which science was able to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Just as the extraordinary history of vaccine epidemiology and science has been quickly funneled into monitoring the spread of the new virus and the design and production of effective vaccines, our knowledge of the epidemiology of the disease. children’s mental health and our knowledge of the effectiveness of and family psychological treatments (and effective preventive interventions) could they also be mobilized at full speed?
The epidemiology of children’s mental health was developed in the UK, and UK research on the effectiveness of interventions with children and families, at home and at school, is truly world class. .
Indeed, one of the pioneering achievements of the UK’s first epidemiology of children’s mental health in the mid-1960s was to examine how children’s emotional and behavioral issues interacted with special cognitive and educational needs. The UK has pioneered high quality psychosocial interventions and efficacy trials. These scientific fields, in which the UK has been a leader for many years, are perhaps less well known than general biomedical science research.
After so much discussion over the past few years about the crisis in child and adolescent mental health and the impact of the pandemic on children’s lives, surely we can act as quickly in this area as we have. in the vaccine response against the pandemic?
It would take political will to not only provide ‘cast’ funding, but also programmatic interagency funding, and to bring together leading researchers and practitioners in child and adolescent mental health to learn from the recent experience of child and adolescent mental health. physical and public medicine linked to Covid. health colleagues. The time has come.
Dr Peter Appleton
Visiting researcher, University of Essex