Children as young as four have mental health issues!
It is a very sad fact that a poll from the NASUWT has stated that children as young as four are suffering from mental health issues such as panic attacks, anxiety and depression!
However, what worries me even more is that no one is asking WHY?
There are however, a number of potential reasons (that I have said many times before):
- Over the last 15 years or so, we have seen a drastic change in lifestyles when women are pregnant. There are proven links to mum’s stress levels during pregnancy and the effect of the subsequent cortisol produced on the unborn baby’s brain development – resulting in anxiety, depression, ADHD and schizophrenia.
- Pressure on pregnant mums to work up as close to their EDD (expected due date) as possible both by employers who ‘want work completed or the most out of their staff’ and for financial reasons, SMP only provides 6 months at the higher rate from when you start it.
- Potentially due to these stress levels we are seeing a rise in premature births, during the last trimester which is the most crucial for baby’s brain development.
- We are seeing a distinct rise in post-natal depression in both mums and dads, which has an effect on bonding with baby also. This too has an effect on the baby’s mental health wellbeing.
- We are allowing babies and children under 5 years old to watch screens (TV, iPads etc) when there are proven links to screen time and mental health issues. Children under 2 years should not use screens at all and children under 5 years should only use them for up to 1 hour a day.
- We are not putting in place boundaries for our babies and children. Babies as young as 10 months old develop the concept and understanding of ‘no’, yet we do not use these boundaries. Boundaries make children feel safe and secure and enable them to develop a better sense of their own self and mental health wellbeing.
- Due to lack of parenting services, new and ridiculous fads on social media and general lack of knowledge, child development is regressing. In particular the physical skills, which includes potty training for example, and these are the pre-cursor to cognitive skills. Trying to ‘keep them as babies’ longer or through not enabling their independence and self-discovery as they should be is also contributing to their mental health wellbeing.
- Social media has created a generation of online bullying and trolling. This behaviour by adults in front of children is taking away their innocence and development of compassion before it even starts! However, just as damaging is the complete opposite, where children are taught to be spoilt and have no respect – yes this is something they ‘learn’ through parenting and not as part of natural development!
- Government policies are also contributing to the damage of both childhood and children’s mental health wellbeing. Instead of providing parents with the services they need to ensure their children development, behaviour management and in turn mental health wellbeing, they are taking them in to a formal teaching environment at an ever decreasing age – now 2 years! A formal teaching environment before the age of at least 5 years, preferably 6 or 7, has been proven as damaging to a young child’s brain and mental health wellbeing.
From a parenting point of view, we are not allowing our children to develop the way they naturally should. Helicopter parenting, tiger mum to the opposite end of latch-key kids and neglect, call it what you want but how a child develops is completely down to us as parents!
However, parents are also faced with more and more pressures (particularly financial) and stress, from the time of pregnancy which is damaging to the unborn baby, through to school age when both the education system and childcare sector are forced to fight over the same age group of children in order to survive themselves, whilst too being forced to use an ‘education’ based system that is also damaging to the child.
My answers as to how we start to change all of this and work towards reducing mental health issues can be found in my last blog and my new battle cry – Save Motherhood, Save Childhood and Save Childcare!