At a time when the gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” is widening year on year. When statistics are manipulated to make us believe we are better off, yet 3.9 million children in the UK are living in poverty there is no denying that something needs to change.
The UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world yet some schools had to open throughout the 6 week holidays this summer to ensure that their students had at least one meal a day. Teachers are providing everything from stationery to food and school shoes for their students, all while struggling to pay their own bills.
It isn’t just in the UK a similar tale can be told in the US, Australia…
We are watching the situation get worse. The rich get richer and the poor poorer and the majority of the population are helpless to change this trend.
How does this affect wellbeing?
Well, you don’t need any fancy qualifications to work out that is a child is hungry they aren’t happy. The problem goes deeper than that though.
Recent headlines about knife crime in the UK might on the surface seem worrying but let’s stop and think about what is causing these changes.
Happy citizens don’t feel the need to attack others. Someone who is mentally content doesn’t think that stabbing someone with a knife is a sensible exchage for an iphone or a bike. The people who commit these crimes are desperate. They are hungry, maybe they are just fed up of being the only person in their gang who doesn’t have the trappings of wealth. Let’s be honest, we are taught every day that we will be happier if we own the latest gadget.
Many of these young people have never had a good role model. The financial crisis hit in this country in 2007, that means that many of our teenagers would have only been toddlers. Difficult times economically always hit the poor much harder than the wealthy. Some young people will never have had a decent meal, will have been raised by parents who are depressed, exhausted, working every hour they can… What about the many more whose parents are addicts? Who have reached such depths in their own mental wellness that they just have to shut the world out using drugs. What about the army of young carers?
If children from happy, affluent homes are struggling with anxiety and depression, what chance do the children from such challenging homes have?
When many young people can see no light at the end of the tunnel, no job prospects, no hope of life every getting any easier, it is easy to see how they can feel desperate and as though no-one cares.
Instead of looking at the symptoms and trying to solve the signs we are seeing of mental ill health, we need to start looking at the causes and poverty is definitely a huge factor. There is a direct correlation between times of economic prosperity and better mental health, equally the reverse is true.
Fortunately, the world is waking up to the size of the problem we are facing. We are talking about mental health and the stigma surrounding it is gone.
This week saw the launch of an amazing campaign by the Dukes and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, Every Mind Matters. After the first airing of the advert the website crashed.
On Saturday night ITV also added their support with their own campaing Britain Get Talking. Which started with a pause during Britain’s Got Talent and then went into a silent ad break to encourage the country to talk to the people they were sitting with. I have heard wonderful stories about how successful this was.
Talking is so important when you are struggling with anxiety, stress or depression. The old adage “a problem solved is a problem halved” is definitely true. But what if you don’t have someone to talk to? What if you are afraid that you will be judged for opening up? What if the idea of talking to someone about how you are feeling only increases your anxiety?
Mental health is such a complex issue.
Whatever the reason you are struggling, whether it is financial pressures, academic anxiety, illness, an abusive relationship, work place issues… please, please, find someone to talk to. As individuals most of us don’t have the ability to solve poverty, but we do have the ability to open our hearts to others. We can make a cup of tea and sit and listen. whether it is adults or children who are struggling knowing that someone cares and is listening to them, really listening, can make all the difference.
We must start reversing the current trends. A 48% rise in childhood anxiety and depression over the last 15 years is terrifying.
This has to stop and stop now!
This time of year can be difficult for many people in the northern hemisphere. As the nights draw in and the weather changes we are less likely to spend time outside, less likely to socialise and just the darker, gloomier days can have a huge impact on how upbeat we are feeling. Let’s all make an effort to reach out to others and show them that we care and maybe, just maybe if we all take the time to care for each other we can begin to reverse this trend. Whatever the cause of someone’s anxiety and depression, love and listening are the start of the solution.