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Children and the cult of mental health

Dr Michael Fitzpatrick notes that doctors are seeing “an alarming number of teenagers who are fluent in the language of therapy”, who arrive complaining of “low self-esteem” and problems of “body image”; they “wonder whether panic attacks typical of post-traumatic stress disorder were “triggered” by apparently trivial incidents at school”. One teenage girl was brought to the surgery by her parents following an end-of-term binge, suggesting that she had been “self-medicating” her symptoms of low mood with alcohol.

He attributes all this to the fact that “scarcely a week passes without another report claiming that an epidemic of mental health problems is sweeping the nation’s schools”, and that “recently the charity Action for Children…reported a survey revealing that the plight of children was getting worse, warning grimly that we were in danger of “sleepwalking into a crisis of childhood”.

There is scarcely a risk of that when, as Dr Fitzpatrick observes, not a week seems to go by without someone warning that we need to talk about mental health. indeed, caught between asserting that everyone has such problems but also that everyone has to listen to everyone else about them, they are in danger of over-playing their hand.

No doubt surveys of young people do show a rise in mental health problems, but has anyone done a survey on whether the surveys themselves are helping to create the problem? As G. K. Chesterton noted, asking ourselves whether we are really happy is a sure-fire way of making us feel miserable; it also creates an unfeasibly high standard of mental health that most are guaranteed to fail.

What makes this campaign for mental health even more baffling is that never has the care for real mental illness been so stretched and, in some cases, so dire, as in the case of the now-notorious Whorlton Hall. Mental health campaigners imply that by focusing on children they can prevent mental illness, but there is no evidence for this; worse, trying to treat problems before they arise virtually ensures that for the vast majority the end result will be anxiety and/or depression at the very least.

Chief executive of Action for Children Julie Bentley says that “far from being carefree, children are buckling under the weight of unprecedented social pressures”, but she ought to know something about that, having been responsible, as chief executive, for Girlguiding UK’s new transgender policy – which she claimed was in line with the 2010 Equality Act – under which “organisations providing single-sex services must treat people according to their acquired gender”.

Under this policy, two Guide leaders were expelled for questioning the policy, under which “male-bodied members should be allowed to share facilities with other girls if they identify as trans”, and “information about whether group leaders or other children are transgender should not be shared with parents”

Ms Bentley spearheaded Girlguiding’s re-branding as a quasi-feminist organisation prepared to tell girls that they can do whatever they want – including sexual activity – all without parents being involved.

This approach was embodied in a national recruitment campaign aimed at “empowering women and girls” which used the hashtag #KnowYourPlace, in order to “turn the old-fashioned idea that a woman should know her place on its head by emphasising that a woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be”.

In 2012, she was promoting sex education as a “feminist” endeavour. In 2014, she said that adults could “no longer hope to protect young girls by sheltering them from the darker side of modern technology”, and that they should therefore ‘“teach girls about porn”.

Like the family planning movement, the mental health movement actually creates the problem for which they have the ready solution. Admittedly, unlike their ideological forebears in the eugenics movement, who diagnosed everyone bar themselves with mental illness, they encourage young people to diagnose themselves as mentally ill and to seek treatment. The outcomes may not be too dissimilar, for people with mental health problems will be regarded as not able to cope with bringing up children, heralding the return of what the eugenicists of old called the “unfit mother”. And at what better stage of life to get people to self-diagnose themselves with mental problems – and ruin their own fertility – than when they are too young to want a family?

Unfortunately, the current government has embraced the mental health agenda, along with the sex education agenda and, as a bonus, the mental health “experts” scaremongering about the miseries of modern childhood can serve as a handy warning against having them; like the Fat Boy inThe Pickwick Papers, they “want to make our flesh creep”. Dr Fitzpatrick is right to warn about those self-appointed experts who, far from aiming to prevent mental illness with their frequent warnings, want to make us fear it.

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