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Warning as self-harm rife among teens

Wednesday August 29th, 2018

Very large numbers of young teenage girls are self-harming – and doubts about sexuality increase the risk, according to the findings of an analysis published today.

The problem is afflicting 14% of girl 14-year-olds, the Children’s Society reported.

The total number of boy and girl 14-year-olds reporting self-harm is 110,000, two thirds of them girls, the Society says in its annual Good Childhood report.

Among 14-year-olds who said they had felt same-sex attraction, 46% reported self-harm – and 38% showed signs of depression. This compared with 11% of all children.

Researchers said gender stereotypes – such as boys being tough and girls dressing well – were contributing to problems.

Almost a quarter reported experience of intimidating joking at school about bodies, appearance and sexual activity.

Society chief executive Matthew Reed said: “It’s vital that children’s well-being is taken more seriously and that much more is done to tackle the root causes of their unhappiness and support their mental health.

“Schools can play an important part in this and that is why we want the Government to make it a requirement for all secondary schools to offer access to a counsellor, regularly monitor children’s well-being and have their mental health provision assessed as part of Ofsted inspections.

“Issues like appearance, gender stereotypes and sexuality should be included in the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.”

Dr Max Reed, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, backed the calls for urgent action.

He said: “Mental health is one of the biggest health epidemics of our time and is strongly linked to social disadvantage. These latest figures further emphasise this and highlight just how urgent the need for appropriate action is.

“We know that poor mental health can lead to poor employment prospects and an increased risk of drug and alcohol use, so it is important that support is fully inclusive, joined up and offered to children and young people early to give them the best possible chance in later life. “

He added: “This country’s mental health crisis is not going to go away overnight but with appropriate action from Government, there is hope that fewer children will have mental health worries and be happier with their life as a result.”

* Smoking and drinking alcohol can begin to damage arteries from the teenage years, researchers warned yesterday.

Findings come from 1,266 participants in the 'Children of the 90s' study, also called the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Tests were carried out over a five-year period with a Vicorder device to measure carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity.

Results showed arterial stiffness in by age 17 in teenagers who drink alcohol and smoke, even very occasionally. The problem was more severe in teenagers who both drank and smoked.

Details were published yesterday evening (28 August) in The European Heart Journal.

Senior author, Professor John Deanfield of University College London, UK, said: "We found that in this large contemporary British cohort, drinking and smoking in adolescence, even at lower levels compared to those reported in adult studies, is associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression.

"However, we also found that if teenagers stopped smoking and drinking during adolescence, their arteries returned to normal suggesting that there are opportunities to preserve arterial health from a young age."

Co-author Dr Marietta Charakida added: "Injury to the blood vessels occurs very early in life as a result of smoking and drinking. Although studies have shown teenagers are smoking less in recent years, our findings indicated approximately one in five teenagers were smoking by the age of 17. In families where parents were smokers, teenagers were more likely to smoke.

"Governments and policy-makers need to devise and implement effective educational strategies, starting in childhood, to discourage children and teenagers from adopting smoking and bad drinking habits."

Charakida, M. et al. Early vascular damage from smoking and alcohol in teenage years: the ALSPAC study. The European Heart Journal 28 August 2018; doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehy524

Tags: Child Health | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Heart Health | Mental Health | Respiratory | UK News

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