Once again mental health is on the front pages of the papers and it reminded me that our recently concluded radio series, Raising Teens, on BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey has highlighted the positive.

In episode after episode, the teenagers we spoke to showed themselves to be eloquent and possessing the language and knowledge to speak up about mental health. As one listener said of the teens featured in the show: I love their optimism, their kindness and care.”

As our teen reporter, Lola, put it: “We will become more emotionally intelligent than past generations have ever been because we are able to express ourselves more openly and freely without shame or discouragement from our peers, adults or parents. I think we as a generation will become resilient because we are able to talk about [mental health] and communicate more openly.” 

BBC Sussex Raising Teens presenter Guy Lloyd and teen reporter Lola Ray
Raising Teens presenter Guy Lloyd and teen reporter Lola Ray

But it’s high time the rest of us caught up. The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, this week reported on the postcode lottery affecting children most in need. In a scathing report Longfield writes:

“The Prime Minister today called for all teachers to be trained to spot emerging mental health conditions in kids – I don’t think they have that much trouble spotting them; they have trouble finding anyone to treat them. I have called for a long time for a CAMHS professional to be available in every school. Now, on the day we hear that teenagers in Liverpool are being paid £1,000 to stab other kids and the Government publicly recognises that one in ten kids with a social worker lurches in and out of the service for 4-5 years, the PM calls for a twiddle to teacher training?” 

This will just be heaping another responsibility on beleaguered teachers – today the OECD have published a report showing that teachers in England have longer working days than anywhere other than Japan. Here’s a thought – why not have teachers focus on what they do best: teach and inspire our children?

This week Action for Children reported on a huge decline in early years’ childcare and support saying that Sure Start centres were closing with a 62% cut in early years’ service spending since 2010. This means that those needing the most help are the least likely to get it, shoring up problems in later years. Couple that with what comes later – namely school stress and the relentless exam focus, it’s a ticking time bomb… We looked at school stress and what teens and parents can do to help in Raising Teens. You can listen to the episode on BBC Sounds.  

If you have listened to any of the shows, please let us know what you think in our very brief survey. Your feedback will help to shape our future projects – of which there are plenty in the pipeline (watch this space!) Thank you!

Raising Teens radio show on BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey made with Make (Good) Trouble CIC

Now that our eight-part radio series, Raising Teens, is done and dusted, we’re gathering feedback to make sure that our next effort hits the mark. In this series we covered everything from school stress and sleep to resilience and body image, with parents, teens and experts discussing their experiences and offering tips and advice. If you missed any episodes, you can find them all here.

If you listened to any of the episodes, we’d be hugely grateful if you could spend a few minutes filling in our feedback survey below.

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Mental Health Awareness week was celebrated across the UK – hurray. We witnessed some pretty spectacular things, not least the axing of The Jeremy Kyle show. Our management team all worked in TV prior to setting up Make (Good) Trouble and we wonder if this is the start of a media revolution, to create content with GOOD intention instead of this bear-baiting, revolting chase for ratings. Axe Love Island? We live in hope.

We are working flat out on our radio show Raising Teens. This week we heard teens, parents and experts talk about Relationships: friendship groups, access to porn, whether parents had the all-important ‘sex talk’ with their kids – they were all subjects under discussion. Our teen roving reporter, Lola, delivers candid, surprising and delightful interviews with her peers every week on various topics including resilience, sleep, school stress, body image and social media.. It really has been an amazing series and journey for us. As one listener said: I loved yesterday’s show… it really struck a chord… What you are doing is desperately needed… I think your lifebelt thrown to a sea full of struggling parents and children will have many takers.

If you have any feedback, please drop us a line here. It means a lot.

Raising Teens radio show: on stress, resilience and relationships

We have some amazing new work coming up, including a series of podcasts in partnership with Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Group; a film about PTSD in women in the First World War and what that means to teenagers today; a project with Sussex Police (watch this space!); a set of parent talks through schools, given by our teens (we’re kicking off with a talk about device addiction and social media); and of course our Brighton5 films (I’ll write a post about the progress on that next week, promise).

Finally, I’ll be on our very last radio show of the series on Thursday 30 May, which is all about teen language. And on that note, as the young folk might say, tune in, stay woke, *cringe*.

The new government White Paper on online harmswas published yesterday and aims to help protect young and vulnerable people from content that could cause harm online. 

“The White Paper proposes establishing in law a new duty of care towards users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator. Companies will be held to account for tackling a comprehensive set of online harms, ranging from illegal activity and content to behaviours which are harmful but not necessarily illegal.”

Make (Good) Trouble founder, Daisy Cresswell, and one of our teens, Grace (18), appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC Two on Monday 8 April to talk about the issues raised by the White Paper. It’s never easy to distil such a huge subject into sound bites, but Grace argued that whilst she’s seen things online that have shocked her, relating to suicide and self harm, she said: “Because it’s an open space to put out whatever you want, I think it’s more about teaching young children and teens and adults how to cope with what you’re seeing and teaching them how to talk about it rather than trying to get rid of it. I think it’s important to address what we’ve already seen before we just try to ban everything.”

Make (Good) Trouble founder, Daisy Cresswell, speaking on Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Two
Make (Good) Trouble founder, Daisy Cresswell, speaking on Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Two

The next generation are the ones who will live, breathe and shape this technology and we should be listening and engaging with them about this subject. Many teens have found places to get help online with issues relating to mental health such as self-harm and depression. Often they find it difficult to talk to someone they know. 

So whist we welcome the discussion that the White Paper has raised, we feel that it doesn’t address the issues that are at the root of the mental health crisis in our youth. 

It begs the question: why are our children turning to the internet to look for harmful content in the first place? Emma Oliver’s son took his own life after searching online for ways to do so. She said, “The internet is probably their last resort [to find out] how to go on to kill themselves because of waiting lists. People forget, children do want to talk. They’ve been referred to services and the waiting list is that long that they see no other way out. I know a child that’s been waiting for 6 months for counselling – 6 months is a long time – he goes on to tell me that he feels no one cares so he goes on the internet because he feels he can’t take it any more… the government should try and look at the root cause of it as well…” (Victoria Derbyshire show, BBC Two)

When it comes to implementation of laws, who decides what content is harmful? How will smaller companies compete with the Facebooks and Googles of this world who can afford an army of moderators to police content and who could arguably afford fines for non-compliance? How long will it take to feasibly bring any of this on to the statute books? 

So whilst we agree that there’s a need to address worst excesses online content, we also need to help our young people right now. We need to have better provision for looking after their mental health and to build resilience within them – and we can only do that by working with and providing support and resources for teens, parents and schools.

Watch the debate on Victoria Derbyshire on iPlayer(available until 7 May 2019)