Teenage Anxiety Gone Too Far?

Are our children suffering without the proper help? How can worries parents access help for the growing number of mental health issues among our younger population? Women UK talk to Richard Winterbourne, specialist therapist with teenage anxiety issues and author of the Habit Changer Books. What he says is controversial and hard to fathom that our younger members of society are not supported appropriately. Do parents even know what their options are if you have a child in need of help?

‘It is true to say that this unforeseen and perhaps unrecognized phenomena that has certainly paralised lives across the UK in recent years is very difficult to pinpoint, well at least the foundation for it.  Anxiety in adolescence is a clear and present reality and scourge.

Many parents who are themselves drawn into the world of mental health, especially that of a child find themselves at a loss for an explanation of why this should happen, swiftly followed by the realization that help is sometimes almost impossible to access.

Feeling alone, frightened for their child and their disintagrating family lives they look for someone or something to blame.

It is of course very easy to point the wagging finger of blame at the hapless stereotyped demon that is social media or constant exam stress at school but is that both fatuous and lazy on our part?

I believe so.

The level of anxiety both real and imagined among our young is cause for great concern and many column inches and copious wise words and minds have considered its origin. I’m not suggesting that either my words or thoughts are any wiser or offer anything new, however my experiential considerations will shed a personal view on this dark and sometimes sinister problem.

I feel equally frustrated and blessed at being given the opportunity to work with some wonderful young people who come to me via their parents because I am frequently the last option before despair sets in. In some respects I always start working with  these young people on the back foot and with hope already fading. It would be fantastic to have the introduction at the beginning of the problem but alas that is as rare as chicken teeth.

The route would normally be, concern in the family, school missed, the local GP followed by perhaps some sleeping pills, yes sleeping pills are now far to common for children and then possibly, when that doesn’t work something to keep them calm. More prescriptions to act as a sticky plaster and cover up the issues. Then the school gets involved and perhaps some months in the child will be referred for counselling or the local mental health team. Once put on the waiting list the problem remains and nothing happens. Sometimes for months.

Two issues then.

Firstly why is this happening and secondly if it is, why are the facilities not there to help and support the child and the family involved?

To be controversial I would like to say that quite often, not always of course but frequently the problem can be traced back to the family of the child concerned. That is not to say that anything underhand or deliberate is happening just that we, as parents, often blindly pass on our own anxieties to our children. Our offspring inherently learn from us and we should be wise as to what we share. Sometimes too much openness and not enough parenting can give way to a self indulgence of  ‘ being mates’ and not enough protection. I did say it was controversial.

This in turn gives the potential of unstable foundations which is hard for any child to build on. Once this process is established within a family it can cause, and I see it all of the time a negative symbiotic relationship between parent and child. One relying on being a victim of circumstance and the other the rescuer. It is often unclear which person has which role.

When it comes to facilities to help I would be strongly in favour of an intervention, but not of the chemical kind. Money spent on professional therapists, specialists in family structure to be, with permission, parachuted in for just a few short sessions to offer advice and productive help. This is in no way a negative sign against families or the parents but a constructive, pragmatic and drug free way of resolving many of the more surface issues before they become deeper.

A greater understanding of mental health and its links to family dynamics would save the NHS a fortune, stop a child being labelled and potentially resolve a fractured family a very distressing time.

Yes of course there are sadly many instances of children with acute anxiety, but let us begin with an obvious, simple first step solution.

Catch it early, applaud the parents with foresight leave the mental health teams to deal with the more acute cases and above all be honest and open about the problem.

We are parents, not always role models. They are children and we are human. No blame just resolution.’

For more information or to contact Richard Winterbourne, please email richardwinterbourne@hotmail.co.uk

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