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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Quarter of 14-year-old girls 'have signs of depression'

Date: 21/9/2017
Summary: A quarter of girls and nearly one in 10 boys show signs of depression at the age of 14, say UK researchers.

The government-funded study of over 10,000 young people looked at how many experienced the signs of depression not a clinical diagnosis of one.

Being from a poorer background or being of mixed or white ethnic background appeared to raise the risk.

Surveys with their parents, however, suggested many were not attuned to the true anxieties of their children.

Parents often underestimated daughters' stress and had concerns about sons that the boys themselves did not voice.

Lead investigator Dr Praveetha Patalay, from Liverpool University, said teenagers, and particularly girls, were facing more mental health difficulties than previous generations - although the study did not look at this.

Many factors could be contributing, including exam stress and worries about body image, experts believe.

However, the rise could also be down to a greater willingness to acknowledge mental health problems by society.

The Millennium Cohort Study survey suggests:

Half of all cases of adult mental illness start by the age of 14, and it is important they are diagnosed and treated early.

 

Cat Perrin, 20, is a student nurse and has had mental health problems since her teenage years.

"When I was 14 I was really low, a bit hopeless... I kind of isolated myself a bit.

"I felt constant pressure to be better than I was. I got really down and anxious.

"I got a bit scared to leave the house and a bit scared to speak to people."

When she was 15, she was told she had anxiety and depression but it took until she was 18 for her to seek help.

Eventually Cat's mental health improved, after she became an in-patient, but she wishes she had asked for help sooner.

She believes teenagers are struggling with mental health issues because of the influence of social media.

"There's this constant pressure to see how many people are better or prettier than you.

"There is pressure to do well at school, get a good job, be financially stable - but at the end of the day, they're just children."

Demand for specialist services is growing, but child and adolescent mental health teams are overstretched and turn away nearly a quarter of the young patients referred to them, says the National Children's Bureau, which has published the survey findings.

Its chief executive, Anna Feuchtwang, said: "With a quarter of 14-year-old girls showing signs of depression, it's now beyond doubt that this problem is reaching crisis point.

"Worryingly, there is evidence that parents may be underestimating their daughters' mental health needs.

"Conversely, parents may be picking up on symptoms in their sons, which boys don't report themselves.

"It's vital that both children and their parents can make their voices heard to maximise the chances of early identification and access to specialist support."

Dr Marc Bush, from the charity Young Minds, said: "We know that teenage girls face a huge range of pressures, including stress at school, body image issues, bullying and the pressure created by social media.

"Difficult experiences in childhood, including bereavement, domestic violence or neglect, can also have a serious impact, often several years down the line.

"To make matters worse, it can be extremely difficult for teenagers to get the right support if they're struggling to cope.

"That's why it's crucial that mental health services are properly funded, with a focus on early intervention."

Signs of depression

Source: BBC


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