Heartbroken dad of tragic Murray believes social pressures led to son’s death

A heartbroken dad says the misery of modern life played a massive part in his son’s death.

Derek Boal believes a perfect storm of social pressures led to 16-year-old Murray’s suicide last month.

And the 43-year-old service engineer thinks many more young people are suffering in silence.

He said: “I totally back the campaign the Wishaw Press is doing with regards to mental health.

“But my son never suffered from mental health. He never had a history of that.

“I actually went and spoke to a counsellor for the first time to discuss that. She said 75 per cent of people who commit suicide don’t actually suffer from mental health.

“It’s just a dark moment in their life. It can happen to anyone. In one dark moment anyone can snap.

“I think in his daft teenage mind, he’s wanted to try and win his girlfriend back, and thinking if he tried something like this it would prove to her how much he loved her.

“I don’t think he’s meant to do it. I was on the phone to him every night. Even at 16 years old he still text every night to say love you dad’.

“The last text he sent was to his mate saying ‘I love you bro’. He’s obviously been in a bad place at that point.

“Why couldn’t he have just phoned me that night when he was feeling the way he was feeling?”

Former Coltness High pupil Murray took his own life in woodlands behind Coltness on Monday, May 14 – just three days before his 17th birthday.

Derek is now seeing a counsellor as he tries to come to terms with the devastating loss.

He wishes his son had seen how well-loved he was before he took his own life.

He said: “The funeral was on May 25. The Friday night I found out he was dead was the worst of my life – I’d never wish that on anyone.

“It’s a pity it took for this to happen for Murray to see how many people were there for him.

“There was nearly 600 people at the funeral. The church was full and they were still trying to squeeze more in.

“It’s unfortunate it’s took something like this. If he’d been looking down and seen it he’d have thought ‘Jesus, what have I done. I meant that much to so many people’.”

Derek is sure that social media and a lack of opportunities is hitting youngsters hard these days.

“It’s shocking,” heartbroken Derek explained. “The kids have got nothing these days.”

“I grew up in Coltness. The house Murray was living in with his Gran was my childhood house.

“When I was a kid you had the family choice shop, next to the chapel across from the garage, which was a youth project years ago.

“You had table tennis, darts, pool. It was just a good place for people to go. Behind it you had the old community centre. There were youth clubs in there that ran activities and days away and stuff like that.“There’s nothing like that anymore.

“Kenny Davidson, my friend, is trying to set up a boxing club there to get kids off the street, but the council keep putting hurdles and barriers up.“Because they (kids) have not been brought up in that environment with those things being there they aren’t used to it.

“If they were brought up going to clubs all the time they’d maybe continue doing it.”

• Whatever you’re going through, there are people willing to listen. Call the Samaritans free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), or emailjo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.

 

Link to Daily Record article here 

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Dundee woman with ‘perfect life’ admitted to Carseview after Tay Road Bridge rescue

 

Mandy Jones
Mandy Jones

Just a year ago, Mandy Jones was married and had a career working for a marketing agency.

However, spiralling difficulties with her mental health saw the 28-year-old spend three weeks in the city’s Carseview Centre after she attempted to take her own life on the Tay Road Bridge.

Now Mandy, who lives in the West End, is using her blog The Empowered Woman Project to try to help others.

On it, she has told of her own experiences and has also invited other women to share their own.

It was during her time at the psychiatric care unit that she decided the “taboo” subject of mental health was something she wanted to tackle.

And she says her main focus is not only to help herself but to provide a platform for other women to share their experiences.

Mandy said many looking from the outside would have thought she was living a dream life.

She added: “If you looked through my social media, people probably thought I was leading the picture perfect life.

“I was married, working and had a great social group of friends.”

However, after a series of personal misfortunes, things took a turn for the worse. “My marriage had broken down and there had been an arson attempt at the block of flats where I was living in Dunblane,” she said.

“My life probably started to go on a downward spiral from there.

“I stopped showing up to work and I decided I needed a new start.”

Mandy enrolled on a personal trainer course last August at Dundee and Angus College.

She said: “I don’t think I really dealt with the two issues I’d faced in Dunblane.

“Fast forward to March this year and I was prepping for a body building show, doing my course work and it fell apart – I tried to kill myself.”

Mandy said she remembers running towards the Tay Road Bridge before being stopped by a jogger.

She added: “There was so much going on in my head. I almost felt embarrassed at the time to speak out and share my experiences – I just wanted to disappear.

“I don’t remember much, I just remember frantically running towards the bridge and a man spoke to me before the police arrived.

“I was admitted to Carseview – I don’t remember the first three days at the centre.

“I can’t thank NHS Tayside enough. The help I got there has changed my life and I was really supported by the community health team when I came out.

“Although this all happened to me in Dundee I didn’t want to leave as I felt the city had been good to me.

“I know I’m still on my own journey but I feel like a new woman and believe the Empowered Woman is giving people a platform to speak out. We’ve had women speaking about their battles with issues such as postnatal depression.

“Certainly, in speaking out I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me for the experiences I’d had.

“The project is now there to try to help others and to let them know they are important.”

Mandy said the blog has already been read by thousands of women.

And she hopes The Empowered Woman project could become a long-term career as well as inspiring people to tell their story.

She said: “I nearly wasn’t here so now I feel I need to use my voice to help others.”

*If you feel suicidal, or need someone to talk to, volunteers at the Samaritans can help. Contact their freephone number 116123, or e-mail jo@samaritans.org.

 

Link to Evening Telegraph article here. 

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Are smartphones causing more teen suicides?

‘All of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’
 ‘All of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’ 

 

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33% in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23%. Even more troubling, the number of 13 to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31%.

In a paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden rise of the smartphone.

Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: this gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50% threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73% of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71% more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).

Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A thirdrandomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.

But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

 

Link to Guardian article here 

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Social media leaves 30% of young people feeling lonely, study finds

Almost a third of young people say that technology such as social media is making them feel lonely, new research has found.

A report found 30 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds quizzed said technology such as social media is causing them to feel lonely as it has replaced face-to-face contact.

The study also found loneliness impacts on the mental health of many young people, with more than two-thirds (67 per cent) saying it worsened as a result of feeling lonely.

More than half (51 per cent) of those questioned for the Mental Health Foundation research said they experience depression when they feel lonely, with 42 per cent saying it leads to anxiety.

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for the Scottish Government to place health and wellbeing at the heart of the school curriculum to avoid an “imminent mental health storm”.

Social media use fuels feelings of loneliness among youths

With 2018 being Scotland’s Year of Young People, the charity warned too many young adults are struggling with mental health problems and is urging immediate action to tackle the problem.

Isabella Goldie, director of development and delivery at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Loneliness among younger people is hugely under-reported but our research is clear that social isolation affects the mental health of young people more than any other age group.

“Our children are finding life harder to navigate than previous generations and, worryingly, they are living with high levels of distress. This is something we can no longer choose to ignore.

“Relationships and social connections remain at the heart of what makes and breaks our mental health.

“A child’s ability to communicate and form relationships is vital right from the point that they enter the education system if they are to thrive at school – and ‘school readiness’ is one of the strongest predictors of whether a child will go on to develop mental health problems.”

She added: “If the Scottish Government is serious about making 2018 the Year of Young People, then it must place health and wellbeing at the heart of the school curriculum – not at the sidelines as it currently is.

“It needs to invest in school-based counselling and give teachers the training they need to create inclusive environments and explore mental health.

“Too many of our young people are not thriving and unless we act now, we will face an imminent mental health storm.”

The charity said loneliness can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia and cognitive decline, and is a well-known factor in suicide.

The study of 250 young people found more than eight in ten (82 per cent) said spending time face to face with others improves their mental health.

The research suggests the stigma of loneliness remains the greatest barrier to seeking help as 46 per cent said they would be too embarrassed to talk about it and 52 per cent feel they ought to cope with the problem themselves.

The research was carried out by YouGov at the end of November.

 

 

Link to Glasgow Live here 

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“Losing faith”: the mental health crisis facing young Scots

With problems of mental health increasingly prevalent, and feelings of hopelessness and anxiety on the rise, what can be done to help Scotland’s young people?

OVER 40 per cent of Scotland’s young people said they have experienced a problem with their mental health in a new UK wide survey. 

Meanwhile, 51 per cent say they commonly feel anxious, 53 per cent speak of semi-constant stress, and one in five describe themselves as regularly feeling hopeless.

These findings were revealed in the latest figures released by the Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index, based on a survey of 2,194 people aged 16 to 25 from across the UK. The Index assesses numerous factors which inform young people’s wellbeing, from physical health to family environment to working conditions.

Now in its 10th year, the most recent findings from the index also suggest that the emotional health of Scotland’s young people has declined measurably year on year.

“This is a generation rapidly losing faith in their ability to achieve their goals in life, who are increasingly wary of and disillusioned with the jobs market.” Senior head of partnerships at Prince’s Trust Scotland Finlay Laverty

This data echoes the conclusions of a poll conducted among Scottish young people in January by YouGov on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation, which found that over half of Scots aged 18 to 24 have experienced poor mental health as a result of loneliness and social isolation.

Responding to the new Macquarie Youth Index, Finlay Laverty, senior head of partnerships at Prince’s Trust Scotland, argued that the high numbers of young Scots facing problems with their mental and emotional health was tied to the unforgiving circumstances they face, saying: “It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people in Scotland are feeling more despondent about their emotional health.

“This is a generation rapidly losing faith in their ability to achieve their goals in life, who are increasingly wary of and disillusioned with the jobs market. Scotland is at real risk of leaving a wealth of untapped potential to go to waste.”

Commenting further, Laverty went on to demand action from multiple sectors of Scottish society, in light of the problem’s national implications: “One of the most important things we can do to change this picture is show young people that it’s worth having high aspirations, that opportunities to earn a decent living and progress in a career are out there, and that they’ll be supported along the way to live, learn and earn.

“For this to happen, it is vital that government, charities, and employers across Scotland invest more in developing young people’s skills and in providing opportunities for them to progress in fulfilling sustainable careers.

“Unless we act now we will face an imminent mental health storm.” Mental Health Foundation director Isabella Goldie

“Commitments to initiatives that promote positive mental well-being should underpin this to help create a culture of openness, where young feel supported and listened to.”

While Laverty points to the need for opportunities and provisions of mental health care, the rising prominence of young people’s mental and emotional wellbeing on the Scottish political agenda has seen numerous factors highlighted recently.

Following the January YouGov poll, Mental Health Foundation director Isabella Goldie observed that “loneliness among younger people is hugely underreported, but our research is clear that social isolation affects the mental health of young people more than any other age group.

“Our children are finding life harder to navigate than previous generations, and worryingly, they are living with high levels of distress. This is something we can no longer choose to ignore.

Goldie went on to warn that without action, Scotland faced a crisis in the mental health of its youth: “Too many of our young people are not thriving and unless we act now we will face an imminent mental health storm.”

The Mental Health Foundation’s research identified the prevalence of social media as a factor in the social isolation of young people, a phenomenon recognised by Cinzia DuBois, an Edinburgh-based writer and digital media specialist who has spoken extensively about her own experiences with mental health.

“Perfectionism is killing the millennial generation, and every generation which follows.” Writer and digital media specialist Cinzia DuBois

Speaking to CommonSpace, DuBois said: “As a millennial, I lived over shift, but I remember self-harming by the age of seven. By the age of seven I was convinced that I wouldn’t amount to anything, the institutions that I was part of had already convinced me life and success was an ‘all or nothing’ game. Perfectionism is killing the millennial generation, and every generation which follows.

“Originally it was just the academic institutions which graded and compartmentalised students’ self-worth; but now the young generation have more opportunities to micro-analyse their value. It’s a well-known fact that social media platforms have been designed to be addictive. Technology has hijacked people’s minds; rather than sitting in a casino pulling on the handle of a slot machine, young people are posting from their phones.”

Earlier this year, the Mental Health Foundation noted the importance Scottish Government pledges on creating a strategy addressing social isolation, as well as establishing a Youth Commission on mental health. However, Goldie also called for increased investment in schools based counselling, and affirmed the necessity of adequate mental health training for teachers.

The Scottish Government has been at pains to emphasise its commitment to addressing concerns surrounding young Scots’ mental health. Responding to the latest Prince’s Trust figures, Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt told CommonSpace: “Providing a positive future for our young people is our top priority and this report shows that we must continue to do all we can to promote and improve wellbeing and to help children and young people thrive.

“Mental health needs to be something that everybody talks about, and reducing stigma and promoting discussion and early action are vital to ensuring that Scotland is the best place to grow up.” Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt

“Mental health needs to be something that everybody talks about, and reducing stigma and promoting discussion and early action are vital to ensuring that Scotland is the best place to grow up – especially in 2018, the Year of Young People.”

Watt pointed to the Scottish Government’s ongoing efforts in the area, saying: “Our 10-year Mental Health Strategy, backed by investment of £150 million over the next five years, sets out clearly how we can improve early intervention, and ensure better access to services. That includes specific actions to support young people.”

In addition to their Mental Health Strategy, the Scottish Government in March of this year announced the formation of a new youth commission on mental health services, formed from between 15 and 20 people aged 14 to 22, recruited from a variety of backgrounds. With funding of £95,000, the commission will report back to ministers over the course of its 15-month tenure with recommendations for improving provisions for young Scots’ mental health.

READ MORE: SNP youth wing urges party to do more for student mental health

However, criticisms of existing provisions in Scotland are long-standing and widespread.

In January, the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), following the publication of their study ‘Going to Be… Well-Trained’, called on the Scottish Government to mark the Year of Young People by creating a programme to train all Scottish school staff in mental health after their survey revealed that more than two-thirds of teachers in Scotland do not feel they have received enough mental health training to properly carry out their role.

The survey also found one a third of school staff believed their school had an effective means of responding to mental health problems among pupils.

The importance of mental health provision within Scottish education was further underlined by SAMH, who have reported that half of all mental health problems in adulthood start by the mid-teens, while three-quarters have manifested by the time those suffering from them reach their mid-twenties.

Concerns within the education sector extend to colleges and universities, where the lack of adequate or available counselling for students has become increasingly controversial.

“It’s hard to understate the role that on-campus mental health services play in supporting students with mental ill health to access, remain, and succeed in education.” NUS Scotland president Luke Humberstone

Responding to the Prince’s Trust figures, NUS Scotland president Luke Humberstone told CommonSpace: “NUS Scotland has long highlighted the growing levels of mental ill health in Scotland’s students, and these figures are further evidence of the need to invest in mental health support as a matter of priority.

“It’s hard to understate the role that on-campus mental health services play in supporting students with mental ill health to access, remain, and succeed in education, breaking down barriers to the fantastic opportunities that education creates.

“However, the provision of these vital services across the country is patchy at best – with some institutions having a range of services on offer, while others have no on-campus counsellors available to students.”

Nevertheless, despite what improvements and new initiatives may be made by the Scottish Government or by the charity sector, within educational institutions or NHS Scotland, some have echoed Finlay Laverty’s warnings that the seemingly unfulfillable demands placed upon young people, particularly when reliable, fulfilling employment is increasingly scarce, can be a major factor in the nation’s worsening crisis of mental health.

READ MORE: Scottish pupils have been “failed” by lack of mental health training for teachers, charity says

In their 2017 report ‘Flexibility for Who? Millennials and mental health in the modern labour market’, the progressive think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research revealed that their analysis showed younger workers in part-time and temporary work are more likely to experience poorer mental health, with zero-hours contracts, low pay and job insecurity all listed as contributing factors to mental health problems.

The IPPR warns that, unless action is taken by government and employers, “younger workers face a future employment landscape that could damage their health and wellbeing”.

While Scotland, as of 2016, has the lowest rate of zero hours contracts in the UK, their presence remains a major aspect of the employment landscape, and millennial precarity is almost omnipresent through the developed world. Without significant upheaval or drastic reform, the economic factors driving the mental health issues of Scotland’s youth will not end soon.

Whether action on other levels of society will be enough to combat the unfolding crisis remains to be seen.

 

 

Link to Common Space article here 

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Let’s not politicise the modern pandemic of mental health

Jenny Eden argues that the rise in mental health problems amongst the young is nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the way we live our lives

During the Labour Party conference last month, sixteen year old Lauren Stocks delivered a speech on the state of mental health in pupils studying for their GCSE’s. She was bold and passionate; she stirred the audience, received a standing ovation, and later the video of her speech went viral. She was certainly much braver than me aged sixteen: to stand up in front hundreds of people and communicate her views with such raw emotion is something that has to be commended. However, while her convictions are honest, she missed the point.

She described “seas of spaced out, stressed out, depressed kids” where a “good half, if not more” of them have a mental illness. This, she thought, is for the most part down to the new GCSE system, with numbered grades, tougher material, Ofsted, and of course – the government. The Tories are out to ruin children’s lives for the many political gains that will come of doing so. She made a “call to arms” on the matter. Sharpen your pitch forks and burn an effigy of Theresa May, that kind of thing.

What she completely bypassed is that the rise of mental health problems (that being a broad umbrella term for such a multitude of issues) is a global phenomenon, not just for children in formal education but across the entire demographic spectrum. Depression and anxiety in particular have seen the sharpest increase in recorded cases.

“The increase in mental health issues is a global phenomenon”

According to the World Health Organisation, between 1990 and 2013 the number of people suffering with anxiety or depression increased from 416 million to 615 million worldwide. That’s 8.1% of the world’s population burdened with one of these health issues in 2013. No doubt that figure is higher now, but perhaps most telling is the fact that many of the nations blighted with these particular illnesses are those which generally have high living standards. Those which should, theoretically, have the happiest populations. America is the ultimate example; the world’s largest economy, yet 1 in 5 adults have mental health condition. Japan faces suicide rates of 70 per day. In South Korea, a country which has fanatically adopted the western lifestyle, suicide is the leading cause of death for anyone between the ages of 10 to 30. European mental illness accounts for 20% of total health problems. This, therefore, is a pandemic and it is affecting the most developed, modernised nations first.

We all have a vague idea of the causes – social media, poor diet, 24 hour news to name a few. In the case of Lauren Stocks and her fellow 21st century classmates, I would argue it’s the internet, more specifically social media, making them miserable. No one finishes a day of staring at their phone with a sense of accomplishment. Satisfaction maybe, but certainly not happiness.

“Ultimately there need not be political polarisation over mental health”

Stocks blames the government for her generation’s unhappiness, when in fact this is something far beyond the scope of current policy. The rise of social media, social pressures, social anxiety, is not really Theresa May’s fault. Yes, more could be done by her government to mitigate the damaging impacts of modern life. But if there is to be a “call to arms” against anyone, surely it would be against the Silicon Valley giants?

Of course, Silicon Valley can’t be held responsible for every case of depression or anxiety. Nobody could have anticipated the adverse effects technology and increased interconnectivity can have on a person. Equally, the governments of developed countries cannot be demonised for failing to grasp the full scale of the problem. This is a new global issue which needs to be tackled by politicians, spanning all parties, who have a better working knowledge of modern mental health.

Ultimately there need not be political polarisation over the matter, no “call to arms” as Stocks would urge. We need to be cooperating – not just from left to right, but on an international level – to encourage more collaborative research into the detrimental impacts of the internet and the vessels through which it reaches people. We need to be helping those school pupils, as described by Lauren Stocks, to cope in the online world in which they have grown up.

 

 

 

Link to Felix article here 

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