I posted this on my Facebook page and thought those who read my missives on this blog may like to contribute
QUESTION OF THE MONTH: I await your commentary.
I have been giving some considerable thought to the level of mental illness in young people lately. It seems that almost everyone I speak with either has a child suffering, or knows someone with a child suffering, from a mental illness. I am finding the numbers staggering. Especially as one the greatest preventable causes of death for young males between 15-25 is suicide; the other is road trauma.
Now, driving home the other day, a thought came to me. This current crop of young people grew up in a social, educational, and political culture of, how can I put in sensitively, of treating children like they are dumb and unable to cope with the realities of the real world. For example, when I grew up we played outside until god knows when? I watched cartoons that has simulated violence. I watched Sesame Street, Play School et al in the 1970s; interestingly some of these episodes are now rated PG or M. I listened to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, The Who, as well as Mario Lanza, Khamal, et al (because mum and dad did). I watched the Fonz, all of the Dirty Harry movies and on and on. And like the vast majority of my generation I am okay.
The issues I deal with daily are not a result of my childhood but what happened in early adulthood – being shot at, almost being stabbed, falling through a roof and sustaining an acquired brain injury (and it not being diagnosed properly for 13 years) and damage to the majority of my body etc. My injuries/issues were sufficient enough for my GP to suggest taking time out and going on a disability pension while I got ‘it’ together – didn’t happen. And yet, while I admit I have bad days (today was one) I get on with life. I have in the past 11 years completed a degree, a masters, and by next year – hopefully – a doctorate. I think my childhood taught me resilience, sense of pride and purpose, and a realisation that I am responsible for my destiny.
And thus, I am left wondering if the system that the current teenagers/young adults were socialised in has left them with a lack of resilience? Has the system assigned blame elsewhere, such as diagnosis of some issue or another, as a way of excusing their actions/behaviour? Has it left them unable to cope with daily life to the point where so many beautiful, bright, and wonderful children are debilitated and unable to cope?
NOW, let’s be clear. I am not blaming the young people, nor am I saying that the diagnoses are wrong, fraudulent, or ill-placed. What I am saying, and asking you – is the system broken? With all the (alleged) advances in knowledge should we rethink our approaches and let kids be kids and allow them to be hurt physically and emotionally – within reason – and then encourage them to move forward, thereby teaching them resilience?