The Government’s mental health expert for England and Wales, Natasha Devon, has warned that the childhood mental health crisis is “far worse than suspected”.
Bringing attention to the fact that on average three children in every class are diagnosed with a mental illness, Natasha is warning that we are in danger of “medicalising childhood” by focussing on symptoms rather than cause.
“We need to ask ourselves what is causing mental health problems in the first place. Because it’s my belief that many of these struggles could be avoided if we get our approach right,” she said at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference this week.
“If a child is being bullied and they have symptoms of depression because they are being bullied, what they need is for the bullying to stop. They need to feel safe again. They don’t necessarily need anti-depressants or therapy.”
According to The Guardian, Natasha, who founded Self-Esteem Team, has said that the Government are not asking the right questions, and she is critical of the pressure that exams put on kids.
"Time and time again over recent years young people – and the people who teach them – have spoken out about how a rigorous culture of testing and academic pressure is detrimental to their mental health," she explained at the conference on Thursday.
"At one end of the scale we’ve got four-year-olds being tested, at the other end of the scale we’ve got teenagers leaving school and facing the prospect of leaving university with record amounts of debt. Anxiety is the fastest growing illness in under 21s. These things are not a coincidence."
Shockingly, depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in a generation and incidences of self-harm have doubled in four years.
"Being a young person today is harder than it’s ever been," she added.