The study, which involved 42,000 children aged between eight and 17, found that in 2008 children’s happiness levels stopped increasing and began to drop.
Along with many other experts, Emma-Jane Cross (founder of young person’s mental health charity MindFull) believes teenagers are all too often left without adequate support because their issues are dismissed as normal teen angst.
“This damaging attitude can no longer continue when so many are desperately unhappy and struggling with serious issues including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Instead of a nation where young people are supported to be healthy, happy and fulfilled, we have a culture of stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance. Our young people deserve better,” she said.
The findings were compiled in the Good Childhood Report, which warned that 14-15 year-olds were the least satisfied age group, with 15% displaying signs of ‘low well-being’.
The report said that while many did not meet the criteria for mental health problems, they were still ‘substantially unhappy’ with their lives. This meant that they often didn’t receive the support they needed.
Teenagers with lower well-being were also more likely to have lower academic motivation, poorer relationships with their families and a feeling that they were less well off financially than their friends. Low satisfaction levels were also linked with negative outlooks on things like choice, freedom and autonomy.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, says he is deeply worried by the findings and believes more needs to be done to improve the well-being of teens in the UK.
Common problems young people battle with include bullying, problems at home and issues with self-worth. It is important that these children are given a chance to talk to professionals who will take them seriously.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said we must stop dismissing these cases as ‘all part of growing up’ and start listening to the younger generations. These are after all the warning signs and it is paramount that they are addressed before further problems develop.
If you, a friend, or a family member is experiencing any form of distress then it is important to try to get help. Counsellors can work with young people to address problems, identify their sources and find solutions. Sometimes it can help just to have someone to talk to. To find out more, please visit our Child Related Issues page for further help.
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