Mental health risk to children trapped in ‘toxic climate’ of dieting, pornography and school stress


Children are living in an “unprecedented toxic climate” in which they skip meals to stay thin, are bombarded by pornographic images and fear they will be failures amid a “continuous onslaught of stress at school”, according to research published today.

A poll commissioned to coincide with the launch of a national campaign found 40 per cent of 11 to 14-year-olds said they missed meals for weight-loss reasons, while a similar proportion said their relationships with other children had been affected by watching pornography online.

Half of children and young people had been bullied and more than half believed they would end up being a failure if they did not get good exam grades. The charity YoungMinds said the UK was sitting on a “mental health time bomb” and that action is needed by the Government, schools and parents to help young people cope with the pressures of modern life.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is due to launch a new Mental Health Action Plan today, said the Government wanted every child who needed therapy to be able to get it by 2018.

Lucie Russell, YoungMinds’s campaigns director, said: “Every day we hear about the unprecedented toxic climate children and young people face in a 24/7 online culture where they can never switch off.

“Young people tell us they experience a continuous onslaught of stress at school, bullying, sexual pressures and bleak employment prospects. When this becomes too much for them they don’t know where to turn for help and when they do often the support just isn’t there for them. ”

The campaign, called YoungMinds Vs, aims to create “a mass movement of children and young people” to campaign for “better mental health and emotional wellbeing”, she said.

Ms Russell attacked Education Secretary Michael Gove for adding to the pressure on school children, saying the Department for Education, was “not interested in wellbeing”.

She added: “It isn’t on Gove’s agenda really. It’s all about academic success. There is a strong link between attainment and emotional wellbeing.”

She said parents “really want to do a good job” but often did not know how to deal with young people when they get stressed out.

The campaign has won cross-party support. Labour leader Ed Miliband said mental health was “the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age, and young people’s mental health must be a top priority for Britain”.

Mr Clegg said the Government was taking action. “In Britain, one in 10 children aged between 5 and 16 have diagnosable mental-health problems. These young people often fall behind at school; they lose their confidence; maybe they don’t learn how to interact with others; and there can be knock-on effects for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“We know that there are therapies that can really help. And, working with the NHS, we’ve made them available in more and more areas. And that’s why it’s so important to me that the NHS will be extending these therapies to more children and young people. And it is Government’s ambition that, by 2018, every child in England ... will be able to access it.”

Case study: Exam pressure made teenager fear he was going to die

At the age of 15, Aiden McNulty experienced exam-related depression that got so bad he feared he was going to die.

“I was sitting my GCSEs and I was getting a lot of pressure from family members and teachers and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,” he said.

“I was thinking, ‘Crikey, if I fail, I’m not going to be able to go to sixth form or university.’ I started getting headaches and nosebleeds and I convinced myself I was getting really ill. I was locking myself away, feeling the pressure. I was depressed as well, it was just a general bad time. I convinced myself I had a brain tumour. If you are diagnosed late, you’ve only got about three months [to live].”

The feelings lasted for about six months and he performed badly at school, getting D and E grades. However, the teenager, from Wallington in south London, eventually sought help from his family and his GP. He realised he was not dying and many of the feelings he was experiencing were normal.

His exam results improved dramatically and he is now in sixth form with several offers from universities to study business management.

He urged anyone in a similar situation to seek help, saying had he not done so he “probably would have ended up on anti-depressants”.


Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine