My Latest Appearance for Sky News
I really relished the opportunity to go on Sky News and talk about mental health among teen girls. (Scroll down a bit if you want to miss out my typed words and just watch the vid).
Recent statistics show that teenage girls – especially among the middle class – are suffering with anxiety and depression, and that figures have risen since 2005.
I was invited on because I have an understanding of social media and what sort of demands it’s putting on all of us these days, but having suffered with anxiety at school myself I really get what they’re going through. I used to be sick nearly every morning before school and be filled with dread as term approached. The worry of keeping my grades up was always immense, fearing being kicked out of my very good grammar school and letting my parents down. The worry that I wouldn’t get into uni and get a good job. The constant minefield that was friendship group politics. Worrying that my body was thin and flat as a rake compared to my more developed classmates and celebs I saw in magazines. In fact I wrote about that here.
The internet was present, but it was a largely benign presence in the background – random conversations on MSN messenger with fellow indie fans I had never and would never meet – a way to find people with fellow interests. Mobile phones were there and increasingly in use, but I’d still phone friends from the landline and come home to a few texts at the end of a school day.
I grew up being aware of IRA bombs, global warming, the O-Zone hole, the Iraq War. The world is always a scary place, but nowadays this news is constantly present on our Facebook feeds. The recession has stunted job prospects for many, including those with great qualifications, and smartphones are basically attached to our hands. There is no escape, no ‘off’ switch. Where once we were pelted by advertising on TV, magazines and billboards, it’s constantly there on our screens, too, social media now also showing us aspirational lives we cannot live up to.
I’m sure you know the feeling of trying to focus on work, or a film, or a conversation, while one or two Whatsapp groups go off constantly in your pocket. Or that feeling of spending a quiet afternoon away from your phone but knowing that as soon as you switch it on, there will be tens, hundreds of emails and notifications. That’s what teens these days have grown up knowing. It was hard enough to keep up with the demands of school and social life before, but now it continues after school. Cyber bullying makes bullyies inescapable, and making sure you’re not missing out on up-to-date gossip, making sure you’re not suddenly the butt of a joke, ensuring no one has mocked up a photo or found a naked pic of you that’s going viral – the constant threat and keeping in the loop must be terrible.
I realise just how intense and nerve-gnawingly raw it must feel to some teens these days, and even though I couldn’t get all my thoughts and words into 5 minutes, I hope I reflected some people’s experiences.
If you’re suffering with anxiety or mental problems and you want to seek help, there are many resources. I’d suggest…
Also remember to look around you for immediate support and cuddles. Teachers, friends, legal guardians, parents, siblings are often more than happy and eager to help, make suggestions or just be there for you. The hardest part is opening up, being honest and realising that your problems aren’t trifling, annoying or silly compared to others. If you’re depressed, anxious, sad or worried that’s totally valid and you need to feel better. So reach out – whether it’s anonymously online or to the person right next to you – it’s important to take that first step x