Categories
News Opinion/Commentary Uncategorized

Australian children face a mental health crisis

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

According to Natasha Bita in the Herald Sun, Australian children and teenagers are facing a mental health crisis. (Mental Health 360: Shocking rise in Aussie teens being medicated, 2 December 2020).

1 in 13 teens are taking antidepressants and/or other psychiatric drugs.

Health and youth experts claim COVID-19 is a factor to this worrying trend. 87,781 primary school – aged children and 134,439 teenagers were prescribed medications for various mental disorders over 2018/2019.

What diagnoses children are receiving?

Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression are major issues facing a number of children. What’s worrying is that primary school and preschool – aged children are also being diagnosed.

Yourtown chief executive, Tracey Adams told Herald Sun that domestic violence is exacerbating these rates.

Children are also being diagnosed with other conditions, including ADD/ ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.

The increase in conduct disorder diagnoses has surprised and alarmed me. How can more children be diagnosed? Is it over diagnosis; an accusation commonly aimed at ADD/ADHD?

Or is it something else? As I wrote before, alarms surrounding domestic violence have been raised. According to Better Health Channel, parental aggression (particularly from the father) and domestic violence are risk factors that can trigger the disorder.

Government response

To be honest, I think that the Federal and State governments have failed in this area. It’s too little, too late.

Only now has the Government offered Kids Helpline extra funding for fifty more counsellors. Why wasn’t enough support put in before the pandemic hit?

I think this exposes the great flaws in the Australian mental health system as a whole. There isn’t enough support for those who need it, but haven’t reached breaking point.

Parents play vital role

Psychologist and founder of Parentshop, Michael Hawton told Herald Sun that most anxiety in children is “learned”.

If kids are surrounded by parents who are highly rushed and speaking and behaving anxiously, it’s hard for them to not pick up on that.

He also suggested that parents teach children about facing problems head on rather than avoiding them. Emotional reactivity should also be minimised.

Blaming social media and anxious parents doesn’t solve the problem

Many commenters on the Herald Sun article have blamed social media (surprised?). But to me, the issue is much bigger.

There are obviously children and teenagers that need ongoing help. Some may need different therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). There may be children that need to be removed from violent or abusive homes. Victims of bullies need support to have their self – esteem built back up.

Psychologists and/ or Masters qualified Social Workers need to be employed in all schools.

Also, I really do think the Australian mental health system needs an overhaul. Medicare is grossly inadequate in funding mental health.

The Australian mental health system seems to help two types of people: those who don’t need ongoing professional help. Or, the other extreme: those who are at high risk of harm or suicide.

Both State and Federal Governments have failed in dealing with psychological costs of lockdown and COVID-19. Counselling services should have been properly funded in the first place. It isn’t good enough.

Lastly, all mental health costs should be covered by the Government. If not through Medicare, through other means.

 

What are you thoughts? How can people with mental or behavioural conditions be helped?

 

 

 

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

Maybe the changes needed in the Catholic Church start with parishioners

 

Catholic priest at Mass praying
Image: iStock

CW: sexual abuse

I have been outraged by the latest allegations of reaction from Catholic in light of clergy sexual abuse that came out of Pennsylvania. I have been outraged of the repeated deflection from certain clergy and members of Catholic hierarchy: blaming gay people, secular culture and birth control for the horrific sex crimes that have been happening for decades.

This has made me think that the church still doesn’t get it and that the abuse will still happen, even if it has stopped currently. Frankly, there must be something toxic in the Catholic Church culture to allow such horror to flourish decade after decade. I fear that these issues aren’t being dealt with adequately. Too many clergy and archbishops are too resitant to change, even if it may be beneficial in preventing abuse in the future.

However, it heartened me to read on Patheos this week that some practicing Catholics are starting to bite back. They are demanding change from clergy. One has even slammed the (false) link that has been made between gay men and the rape of pubescent and pre – pubescent children.

This shows to me that, if the Catholic Church will ever change, it won’t be because of clergy. It’ll be because of the demands from parishioners.

It’s parents who take their children to a Catholic parish church who need to demand that their children be treated with respect. They need to be able to place healthy boundaries around their children and clergy and enforce them if need be.

Catholic parents should feel free to defy the Catholic Church and allow their children to learn about healthy sexuality and bodily autonomy. This means giving children correct sex education, the confidence to say ‘no’ to unawanted touch and the ability to speak out if they feel unsafe.

Catholic parents should model respect for people regardless of gender, including their spouses or partners. Young boys should be taught to treat girls with respect and avoid gender superiority. This has been exposed as another issue that has exacerbated the rate of sexual abuse in both the Catholic and Evangelical Church.

Progressive Catholics should stand up against homophobia in the Church. No, LGBTQ+ don’t cause children to be raped. This (false) correlation toward the LGBTQ+ community and sexual abuse can actually prevent male sex abuse survivors from getting help because of the stigma. All churches need to stop this and stop it now. I fear that it doesn’t, Christianity — both Catholicism and Protestantism — will continue to be tarred with the brush of sexual abuse. Plus, it plays right into a predator’s playbook. Why would a victim of sexual abuse speak out if they fear (or know) that they will be shunned because of false beliefs that he and others have about sexuality? So, please, don’t allow your children to grow up with this mentality. If it’s rampant in your congregation, challenge it. I really do feel that your child’s safety may depend on it.

Lastly, I think I need to keep emphasising this. Don’t allow priests or other members of the clergy to impose and use their ‘authority’ without condition. Set boundaries that you and your family are comfortable with. If your boundaries aren’t respected, maybe you need to find another church or another means of worship (i.e. home bible study, etc). You and your family should be your main concern and no one has the right to bully you into thinking otherwise. It’s time Christians (Catholics and Protestants), start fighting back against predators and spiritual abusers in the church. Enough is enough.

If anyone found this post distressing, you can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue 1300 224 636

Bravehearts 1800 272 831 (Monday – Friday 8.30 am – 4.30 pm Eastern Standard Time)

 

Since this is a global problem, like always, feel free to drop any links or contact details of sexual abuse counselling, psychological help, etc from services in your country. Thank you very much.

 

Categories
Culture Events

The beauty and heartache of Mother’s Day

Bunch of glowers in glass vase with ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ in heart - shaped card. Flowers surfound base
Image: iStock

Mother’s Day is this Sunday in Australia (I’m not sure whether the US has the same day or not. Father’s Day is different… I think). Looking at shopping centres during this week, I’m amazed at the beauty of the advertising and products. Sure, Mother’s Day is  great for advertisers to pull at the heart strings of consumers. I think they’ve succeeded this year, at least in Lavington! But, to me, it also shows the beauty that mothers bring (or are supposed to bring) to children and adults.

Women, around the country and around the world, do everything they possibly can for their children. There are also foster carers, stepmothers and aunts as well as others, who would give their lives if it meant seeing the children they love so dearly, live happily.

There are also mothers who have lost babies, either through miscarriage or stillbirth. That heartbreaking moment when they are told that their little bundle doesn’t have a heartbeat. The pain must be unbearable. The little child that they never heard cry, talk or see walk will always be in their hearts as long as they live.

There are women who are either childless by choice or by circumstances (prolonged singleness, infertility, etc), who make it an imperative to be a part of the lives of their nieces and nephews. They love them as they would love their own.

Unfortunately, Mother’s Day is hard for some children and adults who have recently lost a mother. It may be their first Mother’s Day without their mother, due to death. For those who are in this situation, maybe for the first Mother’s Day, my heart goes out to you.

Despite the $2 billion industry Mother’s Day has become, I believe it’s a day of reflection and showing love and appreciation to the women that have made such an impact throughout our lives.

 

If you’re a mother, stepmother, foster carer, ‘cool Aunt”, I hope you have an awesome day on Sunday. For those who will struggle this weekend, I hope you will find comfort.

 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary Uncategorized

After the revelation about Barnaby Joyce, stop being hypocritical about the LGBTQ+ community

It’s been revealed that Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader, Barnaby Joyce has fathered a child that was born from an affair.

Now, I’ve agonised about whether I should write this because I do kind of agree that it’s a private matter and his family shouldn’t be dragged through the mud so publicly.

Having said that, to be honest, I was and am pissed off about this. Joyce was a vocal opponent of same – sex marriage last year. He did end up abstaining when everything hit the fan, but that’s beside the point.

While the final result was a win for the LGBTQ+ community, the same – sex marriage debate was taxing. It did open many LGBTQ+ people up to threats of violence and online abuse, not to mention flashbacks to past abuse and feelings of self – hatred, fear and low self – esteeem. All because of the so – called ‘sanctity of marriage’.

Look, I never, EVER want to hear or read the terms ‘sanctity of marriage’ ever again! For too long it’s given people a licence to treat LGBTQ+ people like dirt. It was a shield for people who didn’t have the guts to admit that they opposed LGBTQ+ people entirely or saw themselves as morally superior because they’re straight.

Well, enough!

No LGBTQ+ are not a harm to children! You know what has proven to negatively affect children? Divorce.

Split wedding cake signifying divorce
Image: iStock

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, many children can be negatively affected by divorce, including in the long – term. Children of divorce run the the risk of having a lower education level and are more at risk of becoming sexually active at a younger age. They also run the risk of living in poverty if the main custody is granted to the mother.

It should be noted that the AIFS also says how it affects the children and their ability to be resilient, largely depending on how the separation is carried out by the parents (conflict exposure, etc).

A study by a reputable source has proven that divorce can put children at risk. No reputable studies, however, has proven that LGBTQ+ people, including same – sex parents has the same or similar negative effects. (The so – called ‘studies’ that did ‘prove’ that children of same – sex parents were worse off all fell apart when peer reviewed).

This is what I was reluctant to write. I know that some relationships are toxic and sometimes a separation or divorce is the healthiest choice for everyone involved. While i think we should talk about the impact of divorce and family separation  more, I don’t want to demonise single parents or those who have recently separated. So please, if you’re a single parent, please don’t take this post as a condemnation.

For those who repeatedly moralise against the LGBTQ+ community, argued against same – sex marriage because of the ‘sanctity of marriage’, you are my target. At least be honest that you think LGBTQ+ people are somehow inferior morally or otherwise to straight people. At least be honest that you don’t or didn’t think that they should be offered the same legal protections that you and millions of others have taken for granted most (if not all) your adulthood.

 

No more hypocrisy. No more using children as pawns. in this war that you chose to wage against the LGBTQ+ community last year. On the plus side, many people didn’t buy it. That children would be harmed or that Stalin would rise from the dead!

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

We need to stop demonising men

Former UK football star, David Beckham was slammed after he shared a picture of him kissing his daughter, Harper on the lips. Each to their own when it comes to affection. I’m more of a hugger myself. But this outrage over this non – sexual (can’t believe I had to write that) act of affection doesn’t do anyone justice.

This isn’t the first time a father has come under attack and their relationship with their daughters has been scrutinised. Last year, Arizona – based photographer, Heather Whitten was at risk of being charged with neglect when a photo she took in 2014 went viral. It was of a father nursing his sick daughter in the shower.

There is no doubt that child abuse is a scourge on society that needs to be eradicated. Demonising parents falsely — especially fathers — doesn’t help anyone.

Father with newborn baby
Image: iStock

 

Yes, there are men that do terrible things to both their partners and children. Same can be said for women, too. But to hit the roof and demonise men that aren’t abusive doesn’t help anyone and is proven to be detrimental. A lack of male teachers is a well – known problem.

Family law often leave fathers high and dry. While there is more awareness and pushes to change family law so this gender bias isn’t so strong, it still has a tragic effect. Fighting what is often a losing battle can take a toll on them and result in suicide.

Unforunately, the media plays a role in the demonisation of men. I’m not talking about fictional fathers like Homer Simpson. Earlier this year, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article from a woman who wouldn’t leave her daughter with a man. That included a male relative.

The majority  of men are good. A majority of husbands/ partners and fathers want to do the right thing by their loved ones, including children. Are they perfect? Of course not, but the majority don’t deserve this demonisation.

How do you think this mentality affects young boys? How can boys not feel horrible about who they are when their gender is constantly under fire. How can this not backfire — you tell someone how terrible they are long enough, they’re going to end up, not just believing it, but living it. How can a straight man be expected to commit to a woman? I think feminists are shooting themselves in the foot.

For the men who do their best to look after their loved ones, good on you. For those who want to commit to their partner/ spouse — *applause*. For the fathers who are committed to looking after children, regardless whether they’re with the mother or not, good on you and keep going! Step – fathers, same thing.

 

This post just got me thinking – in the U.S. it was Father’s Day not that long ago (was it last weekend?). Hope all the fathers in the U.S. had a good day.

 

What do you think about this? Do you think men are unfairly targeted, especially when it comes to children? Feel free to left your thoughts below.

 

 

 

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

David Leyonheljm comes under fire for offensive comments on early childhood educators

This week, New South Wales Senator David Leyonheljm came under fire for comments he made about early childhood educators on Ten’s “The Project” on Tuesday night. This came in light of the Coalition’s plan to put another 3 billion dollars into childcare subsidies for working families. Leyonheljm argues that the proposed packaged benefited the rich more than the poor. But what got people upset was his description of what childcare workers do. Leyonheljm argued:

Apart from the fact you want to make sure there aren’t any paedophiles involved, you have to have credentials these days to be a childcare worker. A lot of women, mostly women, used to look after kids in childcare centres. And then they brought in this national quality framework and they had to get a Certificate III in childcare in order to continue the job they were doing – you know, wiping noses and stopping kids from killing each other.

Despite the outrage, when appearing on Seven’s “Sunrise”, Leyonheljm dug his heels in and refused to apologise. One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson stood by Leyonheljm and said that he was “right”. Hanson then made the comparison between early childhood educators and her as a mother raising four children. 

 

Just to give a context of what Leyonheljm was talking about in regard to the National Quality Framework; back in 2009, the – then Labor Government overthrew the early childhood education system and introduced a National Quality Framework.  This, in part, mandated childcare (or early childhood educators), be at least Certificate III qualified to work in early childhood settings or be studying the course while working. This was to allegedly better the care and education outcomes of children who entered childcare services. The Early Years Learning Framework lists skills and awareness a child should be able to achieve by the time they start school. Some of the outcomes listed include: “Children have a strong sense of identity”, “Children are connected and contribute to their world” and “Children have a strong sense of well – being”. To read more about the Outcomes, read pages 21 – 44 here. The introduction of these new requirements have spiked up costs for childcare and neither the Coalition nor Labor have come up with a way to ease the burden on families -some of who are paying over $200 a day in fees in Sydney, with other capital cities not far behind. However, Labor have rejected the figures, according to the Herald Sun, saying the average cost was closer to $88.00 a day.

 

I have read comments on blogs from people who work in early childhood education who have said that they are snowed under with red tape and paper work. That could be looked at and it would be a benefit, I think to everybody, if that can be scaled back. But to say that they are just babysitters wiping kids noses and stopping them from killing each other is disrespectful, archaic and plain wrong. The vast majority of early childhood educators do so because they are passionate about the well – being and development of young children. They want to nurture children’s interests, culture and talents. They work tirelessly for the benefit of the children – sometimes even into the holidays. These people should be applauded, not given a smart alec comment about what they supposedly do – apparently by someone who has very little idea about what’s involved. These workers should be applauded for working along side parents (not taking their role!). to get the best social, emotional, physical and educational outcomes for the children they work with. They also work alongside specialists when children have physical or other disabilities or illnesses. They let local primary schools know if a child has any difficulties, either academically, behaviourally or in toilet training. They want nothing but the best  for the children they work with.

 

Again, the extent of the regulations in early childhood education and care can be debated and  modified to make life simpler for both educators and families. But denigrating what they do is not the way to debate or get anything done.