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The mental health of young people

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Anne McElvoy, Claire Fox, Matthew Taylor and Tim Stanley.

By many measures the UK is better than it was in the 1950s, but is it a better place in which to be young? Teenagers are more likely to be depressed today than they were during the Great Depression. Self-harm and suicide are on the rise. What’s going on? Surely, it can’t just be the internet, whether we welcome it for giving young people freedom they never had before, or demonise social media for confronting young people, hour by hour, with evidence of their own inadequacy. Research suggests that children and teenagers are spending less time face-to-face with their friends. Parents used to send their kids out to play in the park; now that’s exposing them to ‘stranger danger’. Young people can go off the rails because of family breakdown, and parents can struggle to cope if there is a lack support from the extended family or the wider community. We remember that older generations have always been quicker to condemn young people than to praise them. How far should we feel collectively responsible for the mental health of young people? Is it time to intervene through government regulation and education policy to protect teenagers? If the politicians, teachers and doctors take increasing responsibility, do they risk undermining parents as authority figures? We worry about teenagers’ self-esteem, but are we in danger of wrapping them in cotton wool, and reducing their resilience? Are we over-medicalising the issue, diagnosing serious mental health problems where once we saw only the stresses and uncertainties of adolescence? In this ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’, how should we do the right thing by our children?

Producer: Dan Tierney

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43 minutes

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