Is our society breaking children’s brains? | Natasha Devon | TEDxSWPS

Is our society breaking children’s brains? | Natasha Devon | TEDxSWPS

Translator: Flavia Moreira
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven I want you to imagine
that you’ve just moved to a new area, and you don’t know it terribly well. So you’re walking around,
trying to get the lie of the land, and you notice that every fourth person
you see in the street has a broken leg. And you think, ‘That’s a bit odd,
I wonder why that’s happening.’ So you decide to ask one of them.
You say, ‘What’s causing this?’ And they say, ‘Well, in one of the streets
in our town, there’s this hazard, and it causes you to trip and fall over. And for us it meant
that we broke our legs, because the infrastructure
of this town is such that it’s very difficult to avoid
walking down that road, you see. But it has not just affected us. There are other people who,
maybe, they’ve grazed their knees, or they’ve twisted their ankles. So they haven’t hurt themselves
as severely as us, but for us it meant
that we broke our legs.’ What kind of person would you need to be, for your instinctual response
to that scenario to be: ‘They need to make
their legs more resilient.’ (Laughter) Because that is what is happening
with young people and mental health. One in four of us will experience
a mental health problem during our lifetimes. And the government’s response to that? A resilience agenda
in the education system. Now, I don’t want you to go away thinking
that I do not believe in resilience, I do. I’m one-third of an organization
called The Self-Esteem Team, and we travel schools
and colleges throughout the UK, and we work with teenagers giving them the skills
we think that they need, that will help them
to navigate modern life. But it wasn’t until was I invited to work
with the Department for Education, last August, that I realized that a resilience program,
the concept of resilience, could be used as an excuse to pile more and more pressure,
indefinite amounts of pressure, on young people, and then to blame them
when they couldn’t cope. It doesn’t matter how sceptical you are, mental health is absolutely getting worse, and you can measure that
totally empirically. The most conservative estimate is that the four most common
mental illnesses in young people, which are anxiety, depression,
self-harm and eating disorders, have risen by 70% in a generation. But that’s the lowest figure
that you’ll find. We know that hospitalizations
for self-harm and eating disorders have doubled in the past three years. We know that suicide is the biggest killer
of young men under 50 in the UK. Between the ages of 24 and 35, suicide accounts
for one in four male deaths. Now, there are two schools of thought
in psychology, broadly speaking. The first school of thought believes
that all human emotion is on a spectrum. So, let’s say, for example,
I have low self-esteem, and I don’t like how I look, which is an everyday problem
that most of us can relate to. If I don’t find some kind of outlet, some way to express that problem,
some way to deal with it, and it’s left for long enough, I might potentially end up
developing an eating disorder. But this school of thought believes that an eating disorder is just
a more dramatic expression of those feelings
I was feeling to begin with. The second school of thought believes that mental health issues
and mental illnesses are distinct from one another. So going back to my broken leg analogy, that would be, ‘Well, you are exhibiting
all the symptoms of a broken leg, but that’s distinct
from actually having a broken leg.’ And that sounds stupid, but there is actually some really
good evidence to support that theory, that the two are distinct
from one another. I meander between the two;
I can be convinced either way. However, whichever theory
you subscribe to, the solution is to look at the causes. If we catch mental health issues
in their infancy, we can stop them from developing
into mental illnesses, or we can separate out
mental health issues from mental illnesses. There are benefits
to looking at causes either way. If you want to find the causes
of poor mental health in young people, you can try and measure it
with some string and a Bunsen burner, or you can do something
really radical and ask them. And Young Minds,
a charity that works in the UK, in 2014, did exactly that:
they surveyed 5,000 young people. The results of that survey surprised many. They found that a significant amount
of anxiety and depression was being caused by concerns
about economic prospects and the future. They found that young people were worried
about the prospect of unemployment; that they were worried
about leaving university with record amounts of debt; that they were worried that a normal wage
is no longer enough to live a normal life. You know, sometimes,
when I am feeling nostalgic, I’d go home to my parent’s house in Essex, and I sit in the dog’s basket with her, and I say to mum, ‘Mum, tell me stories
about the seventies and eighties.’ When I was born, in 1981,
my dad had a market store, and my mum was an assistant buyer
for a fashion chain, and neither of those
were particularly well-paid jobs. But they could afford a mortgage
on a modest property, they could afford to run a car, and they could afford
to feed and clothe me. That would no longer be true in 2016, because wages have not
kept up with inflation. That’s left a lot of young people
without a sense of purpose, because that is why you go out and work:
it’s to gain your independence. We live in a world where people are living
with their parents into their 20s and 30s, and that makes poor mental health,
in many cases, an economic issue. Because 49% of sixth-formers say that concerns about their future are a significant reason
why they are suffering from anxiety. Then we have academic pressure, and, of course, that is related
to concerns about the future, because the more concerned
you are about your future, the more pressure you feel
to do well in your exams. Britain trails behind other countries
for numeracy and literacy, this we know. There is a man who used to be
Education Secretary in this country, called Michael Gove,
or Michael sodding Gove, as we called him then.
(Laughter) His response to us trailing behind
in numeracy and literacy was: ‘Well, clearly, children need to spend
more time learning numeracy and literacy, and need to be tested really rigorously
from the moment they go to school, and we also need to monitor teachers
to make sure that we improve standards.’ Which does have a sort of logic to it, if you don’t understand anything
about child psychology, the way that children learn,
or the human condition. (Laughter) We also, incidentally,
trail behind countries in Scandinavia, in numeracy and literacy. In Scandinavia, you don’t go to school
until you are eight. You spend a significant part of your day
learning through play, and you do not have any homework. But instead, our government
decided to aspire to an education system
like they have in Korea, where they also have a terrifyingly high paediatric
and adolescence suicide rate. And then they were surprised when we had a mental health crisis
in young people. Their response to that? Character education. Think about the implications of that. We need to teach young people
how to have character. The implication being, if you are struggling
with your mental health, it is because you lack character. I think the opposite is true, actually. I think in this era of Trump, and Brexit, and the awful thing
that happened to Joe Cox yesterday, and what is happening in Orlando, and the current cultural climate, if you do not feel at least
a little bit anxious, it probably means you do not give
a tiny rat’s fart about anything. (Laughter) (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) In the state sector in particular, the things that naturally
give us character – sports, music, dance, arts – were squished out of the curriculum, leaving many of us, again,
feeling like we didn’t have a purpose. So we have young people being blamed for responding to a climate
that isn’t their fault. And then, of course, the relentless pace
of life plays its part, and this is exacerbated by the Internet. You can’t get away from that. Everywhere we look, we are constantly told
that we’re not good enough, that we do not measure up. It has become the wallpaper of our world. Consumerist capitalism
has gone turbocharged. We are constantly being sold to. And the problem about conversations
surrounding advertising is that nobody ever acknowledges
that the impact is cumulative. Take for example last week. Our mayor in London, Sadiq Khan,
decided: No more body-shaming on TfL. And the most famous example of
a body-shaming advert was – I’m not going to say
the name of the company – but it said: ‘Are you beach body ready?’ It featured a very conventionally
attractive young woman in a bikini. And all the news items I saw about that, and all the radio phone-ins
that I listened to, they brought some bloke on who went,
‘I think she looks alright; she don’t look too bad,
she’s not anorexic or nothing. She looks lovely,
I don’t see the problem. Maybe you’re all jealous.’ That is not a helpful conversation. It does not take into account
that the impact is cumulative. There are so many toxic ideas
that permeate our society, the narrative by which we live. About what it means to be a man,
what it means to be a woman, what it means to be successful,
what it means to be attractive. And it is constantly being reinforced by people who are trying
to make money out of our insecurities. So, how do we fix it? Well, we start by changing attitudes. I’ve had to read so many pieces
in the press about ‘Generation Snowflake’. If you have an emotionally
authentic response to the world that we live in, if you’re calling out racism, and sexism,
and homophobia, and Islamophobia, you absolutely should be doing that. That doesn’t make you emotionally weak,
that makes you incredibly brave, and we need to start recognizing
that young people are calling for change. And of course change is scary. But it’s also completely necessary. Now, I know that inevitably,
at some point, this talk I am doing right now
will end up on YouTube. And I know that underneath
there will be comments, and those comments, they will accuse me
of being a professional whinger; and they will call me a rabid feminist; they’ll call me a social justice warrior – I still don’t see
why that’s an insult, by the way. ‘Social’ – good word. ‘Justice’ – brilliant word. ‘Warrior’ – OK. How did that end up an insult? And they will also
comment heavily on how I look as a way and a means of discrediting me. We need to stop being
distracted by stuff like that; it’s not useful, and it’s not helpful. Yes, we need to be as resilient
as we possibly can be, and learn skills that will
help us deal with life. But we also need to change the world, because, in the words of Krishnamurti: ‘It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted
to a profoundly sick society.’ Thank you for listening. (Applause)

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

22 thoughts on “Is our society breaking children’s brains? | Natasha Devon | TEDxSWPS

  1. Thank you so much for this I feel so validated! Maybe more people will care about this massive issue since it has now been acknowledged properly!!

  2. here in France, kids's creativity and talent are destroyed by school.
    Our school system teaches all kids same way, same rythme as if they all were the same person instead of taking care of their differences.
    Main focus is on mathematics and french. Teaching art, music, sport etc. is seen as a waste of time.
    For those that are no too good in those two fields many drop school, grow up thinking they are worth nothing and end up believing it….
    That's a big problem but the other main problem is the ever growing amount of kids ending up legally drugged with something called "ritaline", a drug supposed to help them behave correctly as not being skilled in French and maths is more and more seen as personnality disorder.
    How growing up with no or very low self-esteem and drug addiction could lead to a bright future and trust in life ?

  3. Wonderful, important, insightful talk. I hope thousands more listen — and heed. We in America continue to test, push, and re-test in painful and pointless rush to excel – instead, falling behind and failing to listen to our children. Learning? Doesn't happen….

  4. Well said about schools! In the USA our education standards Common Core's proponents use propaganda catch phrases like, "rigorous' and 'grit' in their descriptions! It sounds more like a gym work out description than education standards! We are fighting it here in Massachusettes, we hope others rise up too! We must fight for our kids!

  5. Simply brilliant. Could not be a more accurate description of the world our teens are struggling to grow up in. We can do so much better for them.

  6. Brilliantly put absolutely right. When will you run for prime minister or at the v least education secretary Natasha Devon!? Fearless, considered and brilliant!

  7. I've never commented before – but this too important not too. Excellent talk & I suspect in 5 – 10 years time we will regard our approach to childrens education as a holocaust. I do not know how we get our politicians to drop the tough posturing and realise we are developing human beings.

  8. I am a 22 year-old man from the US and my brain is on fire, I will be a catalyst for peace and prosperity. Ravaged in my early years by depression and anxiety I can see it in others and I am the change I want to see.

  9. Brilliant Natasha.  Bold, positive and calling out what must be called out. We do need to change the world. Thank you for doing so much to do this.

  10. Women like this make these claims about society what "problems" there are in it. Agreed! There are problems. However, we continue to hear how it is always growing worse and not one word of what was done in the past differently BEFORE it started growing worse. She makes the claim that capitalism AND inflation caused the excess worry and stress on young people. Totally contradicting. The reason for inflation is due to people over the years voting with a "more free stuff" mentality. The more free stuff necessarily results in higher inflation. Her claims in this video totally deny the abilities of mankind. People, when forced to take care of themselves, rely on government less. Less free stuff means stronger currency and less stress in the long run when income earners can stretch their finances further. Socialist economics combined with fallacy-fueled social engineering caused this miserable discontented rabble. What is the answer? Double down on the VERY policies that created this mess to begin with. Stop blaming capitalism for your social discontentment. Stop blaming everything except the cause! BLAME the CAUSE! You claim that the words "social justice" are good words when, in fact they are predicated on the idea that somehow those who do for themselves are BAD and should be punished by making them do for others. The truth is, you have created generations of people who are no longer self-sufficient and feel that it is the government's(the peoples') responsibility to take care of them. When these kids are faced with the real world after being educated in a socialist system, they totally believe that the deck was stacked against them and they blame everybody BUT themselves. In reality, it was academia and those in power who allowed this to happen. It will continue to happen and YOU with your little "self esteem" nonsense, will have no impact on making it better but will instead contribute to making it worse. It is a known fact that when people do for themselves, they have a better self-esteem. This is seen in the difference between those who work a descent job who then get laid off. The self esteem factor drops dramatically in a short amount of time.

  11. This witch shouldn't be allowed anywhere near children. This cultural Marxism is only pushed on western nations and will lead to their destruction.

  12. yeah asmr furries roblox online dating a lot even frickin watching famous people eatting chicken wings for 20 minutes is interesting for who knows why I like it too

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