Ann Farmer’s thought for today: Parents staying together, not psychiatry, stops child suicides

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield warns that understaffed and fragmented services mean that even suicidal minors are being turned away; a recent report showed that children’s psychiatric services received on average just 6 per cent of the mental health budget.

Suicidal youngsters must have access to professional help, but we should be asking why so many feel that way. The ready answer is social media, or even the 'stigma' suffered by sexually confused children. Although governments have a duty to regulate the internet in the interests of public safety, the responsibility for protecting young people from malign influences remains with parents. Despite this, while Ms Longfield and others in child welfare have spoken about families with problems, they have not emphasised the problem of parental break-up – highest of all among unmarried parents – which can devastate children’s lives. Typically they demand more professional help, seeing childcare as a matter for the trained (and paid) state employee; by implication, it is not the main concern of parents, dismissed as mere blundering amateurs.
This has not always been the case, and before we rush more ambulances to the foot of the cliff, we should think about replacing the fence at the top.

Ann Farmer

  • Sean Toddington

    The remit of the office of the Children’s Commissioner is to focus on children’s needs, whatever their circumstances. Advocating for any wider societal change is not their business, nor should it be. I really don’t know much about Anne Longfield, but I did work for a while as a consultant for Peter Clarke when he was Children’s Commissioner for Wales. I found Peter to be a dedicated, energetic and charismatic champion for children and young people. It was a privilege to have known him. Anne Farmer is correct – children do suffer when their parents split up. However, the deprecation of the Children’s Commissioner is completely unworthy. For example the assertion that they are in any way dismissive of parents as ‘blundering amateurs’. I never saw that. It is as well also to remember that parents themselves may be the source of the problems – the Children’s Commissioners were set up as a recommendation in the wake of the Victoria Climbie case.

    So by all means advocate for marriage or whatever but please don’t use people who do a lot of good as your aunt sally.

    • Bridget

      I’ve come across plenty of dedicated and well intentioned professionals who really believe in what they do but who can be damn patronising to parents. The consultant obstetrician who sneered at me that I’d never be rich when she found out that I was having my fourth child. The GP, who was actually a very fine GP, but who treated me as a curiosity when I politely declined a ten week scan. The health visitor who couldn’t believe that I was happy to decline an unnecessary and inconvenient hearing test for my baby (I know perfectly when a baby can or cannot hear, thank you, yes I will take responsibility for my child’s hearing, yes really I will!). The school nurse who told me that her professional judgement was more important than my role as a mother and that she would keep confidential anything, even sexual activity with someone over the age of consent, that my underage child might happen disclose to her, if she saw fit so to do. And so on and so on. Families struggle, the professionals who pick up the pieces are often hard working and well meaning, charismatic and energetic even, but the interface between families and those professionals, God in Heaven it makes me shudder. Give me loving, blundering, amateurs any day.

      • Sean Toddington

        You seem to have had a wide variety of conflicts with health professionals. I wonder what the common factor in these encounters might be? Anyway you have come up with an excellent solution. Next time don’t bother with a health professional just go for a loving blundering amateur instead. I’m sure it will work out fine for you.

        • Nick

          You seem to assume that health professional are always right.
          Let me add some of the experiences, in my life, with health professionals.
          My mother died when I was 7; the doctors had assured my father that my mother’s headaches were only menopausal and all she need was to be “geeded up”. When this did not work, about a year after she had an Xray.
          Sorry said the doctors the brain tumour is to advanced to operate.

          My step mother had a gallstone operation – when I initially visited she seemed ok for a 70 year old after a major operation. My father called me a week later to say could I come and visit again (@3 hour drive there & the same back) as he was very worried. As soon as I saw her I thought “God she is nearly dead”. The consultant was far to busy to actually see my father, but low & behold my step mother had an Xray the following morning and all the tubes were taken out. She rapidly recovered, but as the consultant said this was a mere coincidence.
          A few years later my step mother had senile dementia and was in hospital, because she was constipated. When my sister went to collected her (on the agreed date), the doctor said that he could not agree to her discharge as she was not passing any water. As my sister said, when she asked the doctor and ward sister how much water had been administered, they both looked at each other in surprise and said they did not know. I would have thought that if no water was passing through then one of the obvious factors is the amount, if any, going in.

          I could go on, but as you would expect from the above, I do not have a blind faith in health professionals.

          So, if people have conflict with health professionals, it could be the professionals fault.

          • Sean Toddington

            I don’t have blind faith in health professionals. They can be careless, and they do make mistakes. At the moment the care we provide for elderly people is often shamefully inadequate, and I too have experience of that. On the other hand, for example, I watched a Consultant Obstetrician work like a maniac to save my son’s life. So I do get a bit waspish when people talk down the medical staff who work in the main work so hard to look after us.

            The point I was making originally was in relation to the work done by the children’s commissioners and their staff. Ms Farmer in her original article suggests that they treat parents as ‘blundering amateurs’. And I think that is glib, and based on bias and assumptions. It certainly doesn’t square with my experience. I’m sure that the author of the article works tirelessly to offer practical assistance to young people with the many many problems some of them face. It’s very disappointing that she feels the need to deprecate others who do so much real good too.

        • Simon Platt

          You really do come across as very unpleasant, you know. You never seem to have a nice word to say for those with whom you disagree.

          • Sean Toddington

            Read what she posted. Firstly it’s off topic. Secondly her GP probably attempts hari kiri when he hears she’s in the surgery.

          • Simon Platt

            I read it. And I read yours. And you’re a repeat offender. And you’re still at it.

          • Sean Toddington

            I blame my parents.

  • Groan

    “This has not always been the case, and before we rush more ambulances to the foot of the cliff, we should think about replacing the fence at the top.” If only we did have an “evidence based” approach. At its most global the position of the UK as top of the league of shame with regard to family break up, teenage pregnancy, children born to unmarried couples; well the list is deeply depressing. Is likely to be connected to it having also high levels of child unhappiness and mental health illness. In fact if I were in the EU I might be rather pleased to get shot of a nation with such dismal stats. Frankly some serious observation of our European neighbours may help as we are such an “outlier”. It is one area where it is truly shaming.
    All the evidence from psychology, sociology, social work supports your “ambulance and cliff” comment. ” Trigger warning” At least in some of the “right on” northern EU countries they manage to step beyond political correctness and are clear about their advice about children and families. While we appear to be completely hidebound and refuse to be clear with parents etc. on the grounds it might be “upsetting”.

    • UKCitizen

      That is because, like most of the Anglo-sphere, we have drunk deep of cultural Marxism and the poison is at a more advanced stage than our European neighbours.
      They however, have there own poison chalices from which they have drunk and are dying in different ways.

      • Groan

        Possibly so, but it is striking that the differences are so marked even with “liberal” northern European countries which our left like to ape. Many EU countries worry about teenage pregnancies for instance and yet their rates don’t reach half ours. Similarly for all the power of feminism marriage and partner breakups are rarely at rates approaching ours.

        • UKCitizen

          Probably an interesting study to be taken. The Anglosphere seems to be more acutely effected by this and I think this may be possibly due to the West (rightly or wrongly ) being defined in culture and language by the Anglosphere. Therefore the primary target of the Cultural Marxists is the Anglosphere because they know if they destroy that, the rest will also fall.

    • Sean Toddington

      We have had decreasing rates of teenage pregnancy for a long time and are at an historic low now for the UK. It’s still not great but we are clearly getting something right. Also I’m not sure about a lot of those other statistics. Things like child unhappiness and even mental illness are critically dependent on definitions.

      • Groan

        Yes my colleagues in Public Health recon it has “plateaued” (interesting term) it appears to be to do with a general slight reduction in under age sex. However we do have the dubious distinction of being far the front runner in the EU. I’d agree many of the measures of “happiness” and indeed low level mental illness can be a bit slippery however my colleagues appear to think that taken together they give a reasonable measure. Again the striking thing is the scale of the lead over our next “worst”. Not an expert the greater similarity with other Anglophone nations Australia USA and Canada suggests to me cultural issues must be a big part in this.

  • Flaketime

    Lets face it, the cause of this is more likely in our schools. Teachers are increasingly turning out ‘snowflake’ kids who do not have sufficient resilience to cope with life.
    The ‘all must have prizes’ infant school attitude does not equip children to cope with the reality of falling short in exams class streaming sport, and other endeavours.
    What internal resources can you draw on when you need to, and that particular larder has never been stocked?

    This is a deliberate policy which leaves children growing into adults who cannot fight to defend their country, even the ones who succeed are just as fragile, they just haven’t had to draw on a bare cupboard of resources.

  • Neptus 9

    Child suicide will lose women support money for that child — the only reason people who routinely cut out and kill their unborn would likely want to save one.

  • Timmy

    I’d wager on average, having an onsite father lowers suicide. I’d wager that having a few men being grade school teachers lowers suicide rates. Because men care about kids.