Why are so many British children deeply unhappy? | Letter

Youngsters in the UK are more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than in almost any other rich country, and the causes need to be investigated, says Mel Wood

While it is true that services for children with mental health concerns are appallingly overstretched and need an urgent injection of funds (Call for ‘new deal’ for England’s children as poll shows mental health concerns, 21 September), do we not also need to ask why the demand for such services has spiralled in the past 20 years, and, more importantly, what should be done to reverse this trend?

What is it about Britain’s society and culture that is resulting in so many deeply unhappy children and young people, and what should be done about it?

The Unicef report cards on child wellbeing in rich countries consistently place the UK near the bottom in terms of the life satisfaction of 15-year-olds, and the recent report from the Children’s Society shows that the number of UK children who are unhappy with their lives continues to rise. This should be right on top of the political agenda, but – ever since Unicef in 2007 placed the UK at the bottom of the 23 richest countries in terms of children’s wellbeing – ministers have continued to turn a blind eye.

We already have some ideas as to what may be placing such stress on young people – family breakdown, exam pressure, social media – but these all need to be examined more closely and, if they are indeed a factor, then action plans need to be developed and implemented in order to counteract them. There are, of course, no simple solutions to this state of affairs, but perhaps the effects can at least be mitigated.

That the UK’s children are less happy and more subject to mental ill-health than those of almost any other wealthy country should be a cause for national shame, and while more resources to help them are certainly needed, prevention must surely be better than cure.
Mel Wood
Swords, Fingal, Ireland

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