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Laura Perrins: Panic over depressed girls is a smokescreen for more family meddling


The Sunday Times seem to have their knickers in a knot over the kiddies. Goodness the whole paper was choc-a-bloc with dire stories about the wave of depression that our teenagers – particularly our teenage girls – are wallowing in.

We are told, “a global survey will show British teenagers have a worse sense of wellbeing than many others — and parents may be to blame.” Of course we are. And just how bad is the teenage angst these days? Why, a huge one in six 15-year-olds in the UK say they are unhappy at school.

Holy Mary, mother of God, that sounds like a lot. But then on the flip side this means five in six are just fine. So if you line up 12 teenagers that means ten are fine and two label themselves as ‘unhappy.’ At the age of 15. You do remember being 15, right? That does not sound like a tsunami of depression to me.

The end of this piece hinted at the real agenda. These numbers come from the reputable PISA organisation but were published at a launch in London hosted by that irritating woman, the former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who is now head of Save the Children International. Of course she is. The global elite likes to keep that merry-go-round of highly-paid third sector positions on the move. Do not forget, dear reader, that this woman had a go at highly educated British women for ‘wasting’ their top degrees from ‘fancy universities’ if they devoted their best years to child-rearing.

Reading her name told me all I needed to know about this crack-pot theory about the ‘mentalist’ teenagers. I suspect that in reality the teenagers are fine but the socialist meddlers want to tell us otherwise so they can get meddling where they like to meddle most – in the family.

In addition, we are told the teaching union the NUT will debate a motion calling for a boycott of tests in primary schools. See where we are going with this? Just because one in six 15-year-olds say they are unhappy on any given day this means obviously we should scrap tests for primary school pupils. That is quite a leap.

Anyway over at the Sunday Time Magazine ‘top psychologist’ Steve Biddulph tells us it is the end of the world for teenage girls. There is “an epidemic of anxiety facing this generation of British children, especially girls” which is nothing less than ‘catastrophic.’ Again I am not convinced.

Now I am not denying that much of what he says is true – namely that teenage girls can be nasty to each other and social media needs to be controlled by parents and that parents should discipline more effectively. He also has a go at time-poor dual career parents. Fine, but scratch the surface and I’ll tell you what I see folks.

I see a continued media obsession, not just with pushy middle class career orientated mothers to the detriment of others not so career focused, but a new media obsession about ambitious middle class daughters too. So some girls can’t take the pressure of private school they have been pushed into and the medical school they are driven to. This is unfortunate but I think they are a minority of girls. Perhaps the reason they are all so damned depressed is that their time-poor parents can offer fancy schools but no value system?

The truth is while we obsess over this minority of girls at secondary school thousands of boys are leaving school unable to read. But sure, let’s focus on the girls (and before you start I have two of them).

So having left the main paper complete with hand-wringing editorial and reading Steve Biddulph in the magazine about how “affluent, time-poor British parents are responsible for a youth mental health epidemic” I read Style magazine. And what a gem I found in there.

This piece was about women making a difference in the workplace and “celebrating the female role models we think are making a stand to change the way we work for the better.” Fair enough I thought. Most were fine, but the last ‘advocate for female ambition’ Moya Greene told us in no uncertain terms her motto was: I always say, ‘Don’t let the worry about your children defeat your ambition.”

You said it lady! So even if your daughter is sadly one of the “2,311 girls hospitalised after cutting themselves in 2016” that were solemnly discussed in the magazine, then just don’t worry about it. Above all do not let that pesky daughter and her emotional stability issues defeat your ambition! Because your ambition is what counts! Honestly Sunday Times: make up your mind.

And finally (if you can take anymore) I did notice in Culture that 3 of the top 10 books in ‘General Hardbooks’ are about mothering. Not parenting, I am afraid my feminist friends – but mothering. The Unmumsy Mum Diary; Happy Mum, Happy Baby and How it Works; The Mum all provide ample navel-gazing entertainment.

Since when did the nitty-gritty of motherhood become a veritable industry in the publishing world? I find all this a little odd but perhaps I am being unreasonable.

The real issue here is that being a decent mother or father is really about having patience and lots of time for your children. Sadly both of these things are in short supply when it comes to a minority of parents who love nothing more than dispatching their kids to nursery, private prep school or boarding school and then heading off to the office.

This does not make them bad people but it can, sometimes, make them crappy parents. Just don’t expect to hear that hard truth from the likes of Helle Thorning-Schmidt and her ilk any time soon.

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