Far be it it for me to assign you homework before we even get started – but please take a look at this article published in yesterday’s Guardian.
‘By mollycoddling our children, we’re fuelling mental illness in teenagers’
It’s so easy for anyone over 30 to rapidly get lost in a world of, ‘In my day…’ and ‘…it never did me any harm…’ but let’s take a breath before we rescue the mental health crisis by blaming parents, or by getting kids to go to the shops and/ or climb a few trees…
We spend all our time telling young people, ‘It’s good to talk…’
Look at the data! It’s great! More people are talking! Isn’t that fabulous…?
…only to tell them that when they do, they, and their parents are spoiled, mollycoddled and lacking in resilience…?
I’m not going to pretend, I think Guardian article is a pile of old bollocks…perhaps brought on by the writers own over privileged childhoods…we can’t blame them…perhaps their parents didn’t expose them to the inequalities in society…?
See what I did there?
It’s good to talk
We’ve accepted – in the U.K. at least – that we’ve been tight lipped for centuries when it comes to talking about emotional and painful stuff.
For example, when I was growing up in the 1970’s experiencing bereavement, neglect and sexual abuse, I told nobody – I was being strong for my Dad (actual quote from folk at my mum’s funeral when I was 12) by keeping my upper lip stiff.
We didn’t talk about that kind of stuff in those days & Lordy, I’m still paying for it today…
These days, we have 2 national campaigns – See Me in Scotland and Time to Talk elsewhere in the U.K. set up to combat the impact of the stigma that many folk with mental health problems experience today in our lovely country.
I don’t know about you, but this article screams ‘Man Up!’ and ‘Snowflake!’ in equal measures.
Nothing says, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ better than a bit of victim blaming.
But hey, that’s just me.
Like anyone my age (53) and others, I find it easy to slip back to the memories of my teens, but instead of remembering that fluctuating developing mind, I superimpose my more adult disposition over the image. It takes a bit more effort to actually engage with those less than certain times…
But I’m not that interested in this wilful rewriting of history, oh no…
My main concern is that the authors seem to have completely ignored what’s going on for our young people today.
The most wonderful time of the year that’s also the greatest capitlalist explosion has just been and gone.
Where 1 in 4 children woke up in poverty on that special day believing they’d been bad.
Most of whom have parents who work…
Interesting fact – the U.K. government counts you as employed if you work 2 or more hours a week! That’ll sort those pesky unemployment stats…
And, of course, we have the none-children…you know, when the parents have had the audacity to have more than 2 offspring?
Scrounging bastards! Who do they think they are? As we all know, the first thing that folk think when they lose their jobs is, ‘Let’s breed our way out of poverty!’
Do you or someone you know have more than 2 children? Are you/ they somehow impervious to the slings and arrows of life? Sudden illness? Bereavement? Mental health problems? Or some other something that leads to unemployment?
Which of your children would you choose to be persona non grata?
State sponsored spiral of debt
When a person in the U.K. loses their job, they’re entitled to apply for Universal Credit.
A benefit that the Department of Work and Pensions don’t start paying for a minimum of 5 weeks…up to…well, the worst I’ve heard is a little over a year.
Imagine those snowflake kids whinging on about how their parents can’t afford to heat or eat…sometimes neither…
And yet we’re told by politicians that people are using foodbanks for…er…complex reasons.
Cuts to services
Their parents need to stop mollycoddling…what they need is resilience training…you know, the training provided by all the services available…?
Oh, you mean the services that have been cut and culled over the past 10 years?
We’ve lost huge amounts of children and family services since austerity began to bite in 2010.
A third of Child and adolescent mental health services have been cut…
We’ve lost around 1000 sure start centres that provided support to underprivileged families in England and Wales since 2010
There are 700 Thousand Child Carers in the U.K. – take a moment to digest that – 700 thousand young people who are feeling the impact of the cuts in health and social care services that once supported their parents.
A stolen future – student debt and house buying…
Back in the day…ok, the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, I collected a degree in psychology and a masters in social work…walking away, certificates in hand, pretty much debt free…
Today, if a young person decided to embark on such a gratuitous journey of learning they’d be lucky if they ended up with debt of less than £100 thousand.
When I started social workering in the early 90’s, the average house price was 3 times the average salary and council houses were more common than hen’s teeth and unicorns.
In 2017, council housing numbers decreased to the lowest since records began…
and average house prices have increased to 6 times the average salary…that’s on top of the student debt that many have accrued.
In the past couple of decades, South Korea has gone from a country with low literacy levels to something of an academic powerhouse.
Their young people study, on average, 15 to 16 hours a day, 5-6 days a week…
‘But having world’s best students in maths and literacy has its costs. South Korean teenagers have the highest rates of unhappiness and suicide in the world.’
‘Many can’t cope. South Korea has the highest rates of suicide in the world and it’s growing fastest among 10 to 19 years olds.’
And this is the model of education we’re relentlessly pursuing for our children – some obscure, reflective glory for what – massive student debt, unobtainable house prices, insecure zero hour contracts in the groovily named gig economy, and suicide rates that are rapidly catching up with our East Asian partners.
Today, in the U.K. we have over 300 thousand homeless people – that’s roughly the population of Newcastle – people with families and uncertain futures – imagine some of the stress attached to that.
The vast majority of mental, social and health care professionals are fabulous, with great attitudes despite the weird and warped systems they find themselves in…
However…take a look at the Guardian link at the beginning of this all…victim blaming has got itself a toe hold – and unless we consider how we talk to and about actual an potential service users now and in the future, this is a cancer that will grow.
The vast majority of these professionals chose this career path for all the right reasons…they’re people people, compassionate, caring with more soft skills than you could throw a blancmange at.
But what happens when we constantly tell these fine folk how shit their services are…perhaps how shit THEY are…even when they feel they’re doing their best under extreme circumstances.
As a mental health punter, I know some of the desperation when one door closes and another slams in your face – you’ll go to any extreme in the hope that someone will come to your rescue – no matter how short term that help is…
Some professionals, being human, refuse to accept the shortcomings in the system/ themselves and victim blaming follows shortly after…in the world of mental health, there’s the Goldilocks zone of craziness – where potential punters will bend themselves into any number of contortions to be not too mad, but just mad enough to get something…anything…
Labels like ‘attention seeking’ and ‘manipulative’ are weapons brandished in the fog of this particular war.
Professionals, when they have nothing to offer, may signpost folk to charitable organisations with little knowledge of what they do or what their own shortcomings are.
Very often these same charities see it as their role to signpost to health and social care…and there lies infinity, as our young people are bashed from pillar to post in an incomprehensible maelstrom.
Are you feeling mollycoddled yet?
The internet and social media
Older folk who find themselves just outside the blast zone that was the explosion of the information superhighway have a limited understanding of all things interwebbery…lack of knowledge breeds fear, fear begets prejudice which generates a whole bunch of beliefs and attitudes that are, not to mince my words, fear mongering and a pile of old bollocks.
This is the same hysteria that came about, you’ll be glad to hear, when that infestation they call ‘the written word’ became more widespread a bazillion years ago.
I believe that social media is, by and large, a force for good where young folk (ok, and me) can share ideas, beliefs and thoughts with people who can offer them validation.
That said, I appreciate there are swathes of folk, bell ends if you like, who adopt the role of the keyboard warrior, spouting all kinds of hateful vitriol to make themselves feel good…
There is also the norm amongst social media dwellers to display what they consider to be their best, often photoshopped, selves.
But let’s not pretend this is an internet phenomenon. How many of you respond with ‘great, fabulous, wonderful’ when folk ask you how you’re doing when they bump into you in the street? Granted it’s difficult to photoshop yourself in real life, but you get the picture.
There are 3, simple, top tips for life on the internet…
1) If someone is horrible to you, block them;
2) If you feel what they’re doing is contrary to the rules of the bit of the social media you’re hanging out in, report them…
3) Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. A happy picture seldom tells us about any of the pain they might be feeling.
A hateful society
Back in the ‘80’s, Maggie Thatcher, The then Prime Minister, declared there was no such thing as society.
That was as much a pile of old bollocks then as it is now.
Humans, like ants, are social beings. We hang out in families, communities, towns, cities and countries because that’s served us pretty well until now.
In my 53 years rambling about this pale blue dot in space, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the levels of state and media sponsored hate that we see and hear on a daily basis.
The general theme seems to be ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me,’ and, ‘If you hold just one belief that’s contrary to mine, then may there be a plague on you and everyone you know…’
To that extent, we’ve all fallen into the trap of Bellendship.
These contrived loyalties and enemies – Brexiter/ remainer, leftist/ rightist/ shakeitallaboutist(Sorry, I couldn’t resist that) are significantly less important than than the massive impacts they’ve had in our relationships with each other.
We find it easy to fly into fury and hatred before conversations even get properly started. We name call and jeer from the safety of the groups we’ve allied ourselves with….
So, poverty, relative and absolute, fear and hatred generated by those who claim to lead us, and the loss of hope in ourselves, our fellow citizens and our futures must all be considered before we even dare to think about mollycoddling as the root of all that’s wrong with society.
Walk a Mile