“Kids should not feel alone”: Children’s therapist on rising mental health issues amongst youth

A recent report from the National Institute of Mental Health in Czechia indicated that children and adolescents are suffering from anxiety and depression at staggeringly high rates, with close to 40 percent of secondary school goers affected. But what are the factors behind these numbers? To learn more, I spoke with child therapist at Calmea, Iva Hadj Moussa.

Iva Hadj Moussa | Photo: Czech Radio

“The numbers show that the rate of anxiety and depression amongst children and teenagers is really on the rise. It’s difficult to explain the reason why, it’s usually a combination of factors – including the influence of parents for example. High levels of stress and anxiety amongst parents can be passed on to their children. So maybe the reason our children are so stressed is because we are so stressed as parents. Also, there is a huge amount of pressure from school – kids are expected to perform highly at school and in their hobbies. Additionally, peer relationships and social pressure including difficulties making friends which can lead to loneliness. Exposure to distressing news and media content can also play a role. There are a lot of factors, but the most important thing is for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs of anxiety, and try to support their kids.”

This report also indicated that girls are more prone to these mental health issues, why is that the case?

“I actually don’t think that boys do not suffer from anxiety and depression, but I think girls can be more willing to talk about these issues. Maybe girls are more willing to talk with their friends, parents, or go to a psychologist. From my experience, boys are not so keen to talk openly, and I think this is the main reason. I would say anxiety and depression are quite generic, but that girls are willing to talk more.”

It’s great that girls are willing to talk about mental health issues, but this also means that more young boys must be suffering in silence?

“Yes exactly. That’s why I would like to encourage boys and their parents to talk about their problems and not to keep it a secret. Problems don’t go away when you don’t talk about it.”

Illustrative photo: Taylor Wilcox,  Unsplash,  CC0 1.0 DEED

Another concerning fact out of this report was the lack of child support available for children who need mental health help. What can be done to address this problem?

“I would encourage people to study psychology and psychotherapy. This is a really long-term problem, and experts have been warning politicians and the public that this is a major issue, but the solution is somewhere in the future. We have to deal with the problem that we have now, and it is a good thing that there are some organizations that are helping children in need of psychological help. There are things called ‘peer groups’ that are helping children at school where they can talk about their problems, these things are very helpful. There is always some help available, but it can be difficult to find. I would like to encourage parents who are listening to talk to their kids and be open in communication and let their kids know that it’s okay to feel worried sometimes. Kids should not feel judged or alone with these problems.”