Surge in mental health problems among teenage girls linked to cyberbullying and social media

Julia Turner with the #iMind sign

Julia Turner with the #iMind sign - Credit: Archant

A surge in the number of teenage girls suffering from anxiety or depression has been linked to cyberbullying and social media by a mental health expert.

A study, published by the Department of Education (DfE), found girls were more than twice as likely to suffer symptoms of mental ill health than boys.

Julia Turner, Havering Mind’s operations manager, gave an explanation for the findings.

She said: “Girls can be especially prone to anxiety due to factors including the pressure to succeed at school, peer group problems, cyberbullying, body image issues, social media creating unrealistic expectations of lifestyles and perfect bodies, like celebrities, which can lead to eating disorders.”

The study, carried out on 30,000 teenagers aged 14 and 15, showed 37per cent of girls had three or more symptoms of psychological “distress” – such as feelings of low self worth and unhappiness – compared to 15pc of boys.

The report said: “While girls were already displaying greater levels of psychological distress than boys in 2005, it is also striking that their situation worsened between 2005 and 2014.”

The growth of social media use in every day life is believed to be a factor.

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“Children and young people of both sexes are increasingly struggling to cope under the pressures of modern life,” said Julia.

“Smart phones and social media can be addictive with young people spending hours online in a virtual world every day.”

Carol White, Integrated Care Director (Interim) for Havering at Nelft, which runs mental health services in the borough, said: “Young people can access support for their emotional wellbeing and a range of other issues that can affect their health.

“If a young person is experiencing emotional distress they can talk to the school nursing team based within their school.

“Moving through childhood, to adolescence to young adulthood can be challenging and maintaining emotional wellbeing is very important in a young person’s development.

“Talking about thoughts and feelings can be the best way of getting through these challenges and learning that you are not alone at stressful times and developing better coping skills.”

Worried relatives can call the Young Minds parent line on 0808 802 5544 or speak to their GP or child’s headteacher for a referral to the CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service).

For more on children’s mental health, see Friday’s Recorder.