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John Simkin

Changes in Society: Teenage Mental Health

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A recent survey shows that the mental health of teenagers has sharply declined in the last 25 years and the chances that 15-year-olds will have behavioural problems such as lying, stealing and being disobedient have more than doubled. (Time Trends in Adolescent Mental Health). The study looked at three generations of 15-year-olds, in 1974, 1986 and 1999 (over 18,000 case-studies).

The rate of emotional problems such as anxiety and depression has increased by 70% among adolescents. The study also discovered that there was a higher rate of adolescent mental health problems in single-parent families. However, this appears not to be the main reason for this decline in mental health. For example, over 50% of children now experience the breakdown of their parents’ relationship before they are 16. Children in intact two-parent families may be anxious about the possibility of divorce.

The World Health Organization recently reported that Britain has more of a problem with this than other industrialised countries. John Coleman, director of the Trust for the Study of Adolescence claims that: “The route people take to adulthood has become much more difficult with the pressure on for qualifications.” Is it the UK’s exam system that is the main problem?

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The World Health Organization recently reported that Britain has more of a problem with this than other industrialised countries. John Coleman, director of the Trust for the Study of Adolescence claims that: “The route people take to adulthood has become much more difficult with the pressure on for qualifications.” Is it the UK’s exam system that is the main problem?

Research is required into the effects of SATs and Curriculun 2000 on two things;

1. The stress levels of the children sitting them

2. The orientation to learning that the process engenders

Teachers have a duty of care towards the students they teach, they also have a broader professional duty to question government policy when such policy adversely impacts the former. We are also charged with the task of engendering a love of learning within our pupils. Turning the third term in every year group in every school into a big exam factory I would suggest does nothing to achieve this. It would be sad indeed if we created an orientation to learning which cannot see beyond the external reward.

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