Being a child isn’t always easy. Youngsters face constant peer pressure as well as the stress of exams. In 2013, it was estimated that between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 young people deliberately self-harmed (link to: http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics), yet the issue still appears to be unresolved; young people continue to self-harm, and more needs to be done to help them.
Let’s take exams for example. We’ve all see the hints and tips to cope with stress, which is all well and good, but what happens when the pressure gets too much? It can be hard for anyone to admit they are struggling, let alone a child or a teenager. Quite often, self-harming is the last resort for youngsters to cope with whatever struggles they are going through. This should never be the case.
Social media can play a pivotal role here. Today’s children live in a world where technology rules; millions of young people have a Facebook and/or Twitter account and are constantly engaging with each other online. Yes, social media can be a great way for young people to communicate with one another, but it does have a darker side. Cyber bullying is a common problem, and can leave youngsters feeling trapped and frightened. Like with the exam stress above, self-harm becomes the only way they can cope.
But on the flipside, social media can be a vital tool in getting the help young people need. In fact, Mind has set up its very own social network called Elefriends (link to: https://www.elefriends.org.uk/), a place where people struggling with mental health issues can speak openly without the fear of being judged or persecuted. Elefriends also features an ‘I need urgent help’ button and is constantly monitored to ensure people’s safety. Other mental health charities have also set up Facebook pages and use these to actively promote coping techniques and blogs containing advice from other people who are struggling.
There is no question that more needs to be done to help these children. The problem is what? Yes, using social media is a great first step but there is only so much it can do.Getting support to children in schools is vital in ensuring the problem does not become a long term issue. An estimated 80 000 young people suffered from severe depression in 2013 and around 8000 children aged under 10 deliberately self-harmed. This issue cannot continue.
What many young people don’t realise is that there is help out there. We as a community, as a nation, need to help the distressed children who are suffering in silence. We need to let those suffering know that are not alone and that there are people who can help. By continuing to talk to young people and inviting them to tell us how they are feeling, we can break down those barriers.
Together we can help young people overcome their issues and ultimately become the people that they want themselves to be.