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David Baxter PhD

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Parents fear depression in young
Wednesday, 6 October, 2004
BBC News

Many parents fear the pressures of modern life cause children to be anxious or depressed, research finds.

A survey of 400 parents by Norwich Union Healthcare found 78% thought their children were under greater pressure than they were growing up.

Three-quarters were concerned that peer pressure and stresses at school such as bullying and exams were affecting their child's well-being.

And 17% said their children were prone to panic attacks and depression.

The Growing Pains study also found that 5% of mothers and fathers were worried their child was at risk of developing an eating disorder because of the pressures they were under.

Other concerns highlighted by the parents, all with children between the ages of five and 15, were:
  • Not wanting to go to school (33%)
  • Nervous habits such as nail-biting (16%)
  • Unexplained stomach problems (11%)
Almost a quarter of parents (24%) said they felt out of touch or distant from their child. Three-quarters (74%) said they worried that lack of communication in families could be contributing to problems among youngsters.

Dinah Morley, director of children's mental health charity YoungMinds, said: "The results of the study clearly show that mental health problems are rising among adolescents in the UK. Many young people feel desperately anxious about how they are going to take their place in the adult world. As for why this is occurring, we can only point to a number of contemporary factors which impact on adolescents, undermining their plans for the future and setting goals which are virtually unattainable."

Michelle Elliott, from the children's charity Kidscape, said people growing up in the 60s and 70s were not subjected to huge range of pressures weighing down on young people's shoulders today.

She said young people were expected to be sexy, sophisticated and successful. In addition, many were growing up in homes without a father's influence.

"Drugs are more readily available, you are not going to get a job automatically when you get out of university - and everybody seems to have to go to university," she said.

The survey also found that more than half (58%) of parents admitted they would not know where to go for help.

And 55% said they did not think there were enough health services specifically for children in their area.

Seven out of 10 (69%) said that the government should be investing more in the provision of mental health services for children and young people.

The recently-published National Service Framework for Children included special emphasis on mental health issues.

Recent government statistics suggest one in eight adolescents now has depression.

Dr Doug Wright, clinical development manager at Norwich Union Healthcare, said: "It's often the case that while children's services are available locally, parents don't know where to look for information and advice on what they can access in their area."
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