Parents are overlooking their teenage daughters’ mental health

A survey carried out by Girlguiding reveals that parents are more concerned about their teenage daughters’ exposure to drugs and alcohol than their mental health.

Teen girls who took part in the Girls’ Attitude Survey 2015 said mental health, cyberbullying and employment prospects were the things they worried about the most. A growing number considered depression and self-harm to be more significant health issues than alcohol or drug abuse.

Worryingly two in five girls aged 11 to 21 say they have personally needed help with their mental health (37 percent). This increases with age — in 11- to 16-year-olds the figure is 28 percent but in those aged 17 to 21 it is nearly half (50 percent).

In the last five years, the health worries of teenage girls have changed dramatically. For girls aged 11 to 21 self-harming is their biggest health concern, followed by smoking, mental illness, depression and eating disorders. In 2010 their top three health concerns were binge drinking, smoking and drug abuse.

The survey also revealed that teenage girls feel misunderstood by adults, saying their parents worry more about drug and alcohol use than mental-health issues.

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Sarah Brennan, the chief executive of mental health charity YoungMinds, said the findings should serve as a wake-up call as they clearly show the mental anguish so many young girls face on a daily basis, reported The Guardian.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of Girlguiding, which runs a peer education programme to encourage girls to talk about their problems, said: “The findings in the year’s survey provide a stark warning about the fragile state of British girls’ well-being. We need the support of decision makers to start an open conversation about girls’ concerns. By listening to girls, we can work together to tackle the root causes of their distress — and champion their potential.”

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Julie Bentley is absolutely right. Young girls need more mental health support and their parents and carers need to have all the information they need to help them navigate those emotional, stressful, tumultuous teenage years. Of course we also need to do the same for teenage boys, and their parents, because it’s not only girls who are affected by mental-health issues.

Yes alcohol and drug abuse are huge issues facing the younger generation but the importance of mental health cannot be underestimated. In fact untreated mental-health issues during adolescence may lead to problems with alcohol and drugs, which can go on for years or even decades. “Healthy mind, healthy body” applies just as much to teenagers as it does to adults.

The mental health charity YoungMinds has a comprehensive list of signs of depression in children and teenagers, including a loss of concentration, truancy or refusal to go to school, tearfulness, defiance, disruptive behaviour, self-injury and sleeping too much or not enough. Defiant, moody or withdrawn teenagers aren’t necessarily depressed — they’re just being teenagers. The key is to look for a change in your teen’s mood and any signs of extreme or atypical behaviour then get the information, help and support you need to deal with it.

The YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline can offer support between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday; call 0808 802 5544.

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