to ask if MH issues amongst our young have increased since my day?

(75 Posts)
UnseenAcademical Wed 02-Nov-16 10:16:02

I've name-changed for this because in the context of my other posts it could be identifying.

I teach in a modern university. My students are diverse, but the vast majority are between 18-26. I'm an X'er and grew up in the 70s and 80s. I do not have children, relevant because my only point of contact is through my work.

To be succinct, the first part of my AIBU is to wonder if mental illnesses / health concerns are increasing in young people today (compared with recent generations). I ask this because large numbers of my students have various anxieties and other MH issues. In the context of one of my classes, I ask who knows someone personally who has committed suicide and almost every hand goes up. I see cutters and other harmers in class and have read more notes from MH professionals than I care to think about. Other colleagues say the same.

The second, and potentially more controversial part of my ABIU, is to ask whether this has anything at all to do with modern parenting and educational practices (I'm not suggesting that these are the only contributing factors). I ask this because many (and certainly not all) of my students often seem to be so fragile and lacking in resiliency. Many struggle with failure and with comments that are designed to support and pave the way for better work. I'm told by those who have children in the school system that a major focus of parenting and teachers is on self-esteem. I'm confused because the students I see often seem to have very low self-esteem or a sense of personal identity that is strong only when being praised, not challenged. I'm at a loss with regard to how to support them.

Is something going wrong? If so what? Or is it (sadly) all down to the fucked up world we live in more generally?

StartledByHisFurryShorts Wed 02-Nov-16 10:19:04

I was very fucked up as a teenager in the 80s. I was ashamed of my mental health issues and didn't tell people. I think young people are more likely to be open about it now.

YetAnotherSpartacus Wed 02-Nov-16 10:24:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WalterWhitesNipple Wed 02-Nov-16 10:26:17

I think

1.less stigma so people talk about it more
2. The pressures of social media causing eating disorders, depression, anxiety etc

Kokosjumping Wed 02-Nov-16 10:27:22

I agree, it's because there is a lot less stigma these days.

x2boys Wed 02-Nov-16 10:31:18

i qualified as an RMN 20 YRS ago and whilst services were not perfect then, they were far better than they are now there were far more beds we had better out patient services staff turnover was lower in the trust i worked in at least all of these will have an impact on mental health

ElphabaTheGreen Wed 02-Nov-16 10:31:38

Better identification and less stigma meaning people are more likely to talk about it are the main reasons.

Before I had DCs, and was working with children, I was convinced that parenting was the cause of many the ills among my clients. Now that I have DCs...no. Categorically, no. Parenting has astonishingly little impact on personality, beliefs, perceptions. Parents might be able to influence (slightly) behaviour and resilience, but the internal factors which impact on mental wellness/ill-health are far more hard-wired than you can possibly imagine.

NowtSalamander Wed 02-Nov-16 10:34:38

I've worked in education for a long time and it's indisputable that MH issues are growing. I think it's a combination of factors: insane amounts of pressure on academics/jobs in a globalissd world; parenting which is about protecting the LO from all ills instead of allowing them to suffer at all; increase in openness and lack of stigma from society- I do believe this actually has increased MH, not just because people can admit it but because a lot of these issues, self harm, anorexia and now gender dysphoria as the latest, are "contagious" especially amongst teen girls. Social media exacerbates this, of course.

I'm not sure what we can do about any of this.sad

KeyserSophie Wed 02-Nov-16 10:37:39

I think young people are increasingly aware of the importance of academic success and that can create anxiety about performance that was less when I graduated.

I also think emotional resilience is part nature/ part nurture. One of my DC has it in spades, the other one not so much. I do think parents should do more to prioritise maximising it, whatever the "base level" because it's pretty critical to having an (a) happy and (b) successful life, but it's a fine balance. You need to understand how much a child can cope being pushed beyond their comfort zone. My feeling is that parents (generally) don't let go enough and let children make their own mistakes and deal with situations on their own. Children (and especially teenagers) used to live in a peer community much more than they do now and that had pluses and challenges. But of course that doesn't mean that children should just be left to their own devices.

On reflection I don't think I'm a naturally emotionally resilient person but my parents taught it through constantly nudging me out of my comfort zone, which I'll be forever thankful for.

RiverTam Wed 02-Nov-16 10:41:14

I would guess

1) less stigma
2) social media. Of course people are anxious and lacking in self esteem when everything is out there for the world to comment and judge on.
3) I do think some modern parenting techniques haven't been great but new ones are coming through to address that.
4) 'just as long as you're happy' this phrase fucks me off so much. Unless you're as shallow as a puddle happiness is actually quite difficult to have as a constant. But it's thrown around as being so easy to attain, much better than expecting your DC to do well in their studies, right? No. I don't think it is, at all.

angus6 Wed 02-Nov-16 10:44:21

I agree with a lot of what you say OP. I think it's because we are keeping children as children for too long.

KeyserSophie Wed 02-Nov-16 10:47:59

4) 'just as long as you're happy' this phrase fucks me off so much

Yes- I agree. I think it's important to get comfortable with periods of your life when you will be under massive pressure (work, money, school, friends, family, health etc) , and have techniques in place to cope with them.

ZombieLauraIngalls Wed 02-Nov-16 10:48:05

I think it's a bit of both. Less stigma, thank goodness, and better treatments available. But I do think society today isn't really teen friendly. Child friendly, yes, but then those children get to their teenage years, and there's social media, exam pressure, being demonised by the press, all the rest of it. Everyone has to be the best now. It isn't enough anymore to do a few exams, get a dullish job and work in your hometown.

Justwanttowooinpeace Wed 02-Nov-16 10:52:45

I was a teenager in the early nineties.

Looking back at my school / uni days I was surrounded by people with various mental health issues, from cutting and depression to anorexia to bipolar (diagnosed years and years later). I'm talking at least half a dozen of my close friend group and I wasn't especially popular and went to a distinctly average socioeconomic school / uni.

I don't think we had a clue how to deal with it then (I certainly didn't) and a lot of people would have had much happier lives if it had been something discussed at school / wider society.

maggiethemagpie Wed 02-Nov-16 10:53:00

I think it is just more recognised than more prevalent. I had MH issues as a teen in the 90s, looking back they were quite significant but no one took them very seriously, even after I'd made an attempt on my own life. I didn't get any sort of diagnosis until 20 years later. I'd like to think that if that happened now I'd be diagnosed and treated a lot sooner, saving me years of pain where I knew something wasn't right but didn't have a clue what it was or what to do about it.

Justwanttowooinpeace Wed 02-Nov-16 10:54:32

Maggie - yy. Either we know each other or some of my friends had the same experience as you.

Lancelottie Wed 02-Nov-16 10:59:24

It's possible that superb parenting and more understanding education has held the more fragile children together long enough for them to get as far as university, whereas previously they would have given up at an earlier stage.

Just a thought.

Gardencentregroupie Wed 02-Nov-16 11:03:14

A family member had a complete breakdown and attempted suicide at university back in the 70s. They weren't helped, they were just shunted aside and not spoken of and dropped out of uni. Didn't get any help at all until another suicide attempt in their late 50s. So from family experience I would suguest less stigma and more help means that people can tell their unis and carry on with their studies in a way they couldn't have in years past.

RiverTam Wed 02-Nov-16 11:03:59

But if they then crumble at uni that 'superb parenting' has failed to equip them for it. So not so superb after all.

maggiethemagpie Wed 02-Nov-16 11:07:59

After serious attempt on my life as a nineties teen, I was referred to psychiatric services but then told (by the doctor) if I didn't want to go, I shouldn't and my sessions were stopped ! I was 15, what did I know? I understand they can't force someone to engage but do think they shouldn't have given up on me quite so easily. Can you imagine saying that to a child with a physical illness such as diabetes?

Alwayschanging1 Wed 02-Nov-16 11:12:20

I don't think it is more common - I just think we are beginning to understand the size of the problem.

SukeyTakeItOffAgain Wed 02-Nov-16 11:21:20

I completely agree with you. Many of the students we see are very "needy". Many reasons.

JellyBelli Wed 02-Nov-16 11:22:42

I dont agree that there is more social acceptability and less stigma. The current generation have the pressures of a culture that prizes youth, beauty, money and fame above everything. And we are more influenced by our peers than our parents.

The WW1 and 2 generations were amazingly clued up on the after effects of war. They didnt have the term 'PTSD' but they knew what it was. They lived with it.
I've seen relatives treated in a specific way because of their experience. As kids we were drilled that you dont ask Uncle X about the Japanese or offer him pineapple to eat, because he was in a work camp in Burma. It want a huge deal, it was just what you did. And if they woke up screamimg and crying in the night their wives dealt with it and we never shamed them for it.
I can't tell you the number of times our family or friends has had to have dodgy old munitions removed after the death of an older male relative. They used to find them buried on allotment sites, in gardens, and in one case in the house.
We also had relatives who survived the death camps, and one who survived Mengeles. People werent ignorant or uncaring back then, and they couldnt pretend it didnt exist. Thats a myth.
Plus as x2boys said, services have been slashed.

butterfliesandzebras Wed 02-Nov-16 11:23:00

I am in my thirties. I had a conversation last year with my mum where she was basically bewildered that all of her children (born 1975-1985) had suffered depression (including one suicide) as neither she, or my dad, or any of their siblings (born around 1950s) ever had. 'what's changed?' she asked. 'is it something we did?'.

I can't answer that. It seems very common amongst my friends too. We certainly didn't have a childhood that sheltered us from ills. We went through schooling before the idea that schools should bolster self esteem (no 'everyone gets a trophy' stuff there). My parents brought us up to be independent just as they were.

For myself I do feel very pressured by the world and keeping up with everything (just normal everyday stuff - keep your self clean, your kids clean, your clothes clean, your house clean, buy new things when old gets tatty, redecorate, keep on top of banking, insurance, bills, but dont overspend because money is tight, keep on top of legal stuff, weekly food shopping, daily cooking, meal planning, healthy eating, all the various work pressures and things to keep track of, remember your passwords, remember peoples birthdays in time to send them cards, make extra effort for Christmas and the holidays, make effort keep in touch with friends, fit in exercise, get enough sleep etc.)

I don't know why I'm not more resilient, or why I can't seem to 'just get on with it'. To be honest I feel like there must be some major flaw in me as human being.

charliethebear Wed 02-Nov-16 11:27:08

I think its much less stigmatised now but there's also much more information. Meaning people are more likely to realise they have mental health problems and more likely to admit to them.
With social media, knowing someone who committed suicide could be their friends friends uncle in America, because your able to keep in touch with minor aquaintainces so much easier, you know more about more people than you ever have. Its not that more people are necessarily committing suicide, its that we just know about more people.
But I do also think there is an element of competitive mental health amongst teens. I'm a uni student and was round a friends house the other day. The friend has anorexia and depression, everyone was discussing their mental health problems, and throughout the evening the mental health problems were getting worse and worse. Some people were describing anxiety and it was just normal worries, they would say it was keeping them awake at night but it turned out to be once a month they struggled to get to sleep.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now