Teenage girls’ mental health overlooked by parents, survey finds

Parents are worrying more about drug and alcohol use by their teenage daughters than the more prevalent “mental anguish” they face every day, a survey has suggested.

Young girls said mental health, cyberbullying and jobs were the biggest worries in their lives and an increasing number considered self-harm and depression as the most significant health issues facing their peers, above drug or alcohol abuse.

Sarah Brennan, the chief executive of mental health charity YoungMinds, said the findings of Girlguiding’s girls’ attitude survey 2015 were a wake-up call and highlighted the mental anguish so many girls face every day.

According to the survey, most girls (58%) aged 13 to 21 believed mental health was a serious concern, while more than a third (37%) said they were worried about cyberbullying and 36% said they fretted about not being able to get a job.

Teenage girls felt misunderstood by adults, saying their parents worried more about drug and alcohol use than mental illness.

Two out of five of the girls (42%) said their parents were concerned about drug use, 33% about alcohol and 29% about smoking, while those aged 16 to 21 believed unplanned teenage pregnancy (42%) and risky or unprotected sex (34%) were the greatest source of worry.

Katherine Bradfield, 18, from Belfast, who is about to begin her studies at Leeds University, believes the pressures on young people are changing.

She said: “I definitely think that for people my age the pressures and the problems they are facing are changing from what you might traditionally think – things like peer pressure and drugs and alcohol, which are obviously still really big problems.

“But I think less talked about problems like mental health, sexual harassment and eating disorders are becoming a lot more prevalent at the moment, and I think girls are really starting to pick up on that, and it’s becoming a bit more well-talked about.”

The survey found self-harming was the biggest health issue for girls with 75% of those aged 11 to 21 saying it was a serious health issue for people their age, up from 62% in 2010, and 72% said smoking was, down from 82% five years ago.

Concern for mental illness and depression has risen significantly among teenagers. In 2010, just over half (56%) considered it a serious health problem among their peers, compared with 69% who did this year.

While four out of five girls (82%) said adults did not recognise the pressure they are under, 62% knew a girl their age who had experienced a mental health problem, according to the survey. But 57% said they felt awkward talking about mental health, rising to 66% among those aged 17 to 21.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of Girlguiding, which runs a peer education programme to encourage girls to talk about their problems, said: “The findings in the year’s survey provide a stark warning about the fragile state of British girls’ well being. We need the support of decision makers to start an open conversation about girls’ concerns. By listening to girls, we can work together to tackle the root causes of their distress – and champion their potential.”

Brennan, of YoungMinds, joined calls for greater mental health support for young girls, saying: “Parents and carers must also be given the skills, tools and information to help children as they journey through the emotional turmoil that goes with becoming a young adult, and spotting the signs if they are struggling.”

Article retrieved from the Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/24/teenage-girls-mental-health-overlooked-parents-survey 

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