This week, Dr Natasha Bijlani, a leading psychiatrist from the Priory Group centres warned that a rise in cyberbullying and sexting among teenagers could lead to more adults with mental health problems.
The Priory Group, the country’s largest organisation for mental health hospitals and clinics, has seen a rise of nearly 50% in four years of 12 to 17-year-olds admitted for serious depressive order, anxiety disorder and stress-related issues. Research from Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), has also shown depression and anxiety affect more children than ever before. Emergency admissions for psychiatric conditions rose to 17,278 in 2014, double the number four years previously.
Dr Bijlani links this increase to the rise in cyberbullying and sexting among teenagers. As she states “negative online experiences can lead to mental health problems if people are vulnerable. Social media makes it easier for bullies and gives us new ways of abusing each other. If you get bullied at that crucial stage in your development, when your character is being formed, there is good evidence it can affect your self-esteem and confidence - and your whole life for many years".
The huge impact that bullying can have was highlighted in a recent study from the University of Warwick that found that bullying carried out by other children is five times more likely to cause anxiety in adulthood as neglect or abuse at home. The paper published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry underlines the importance of continuing efforts to prevent and respond to bullying, urging the government, schools, health services and other organisations to address bullying as they would maltreatment. Dr Bijlani also adds that more focus needs to be given to educating young people about the risks of sending compromising images as it can lead to shame and embarrassment.
At Childnet we have a cyberbullying and sexting hot topic which provides in depth information and advice for 11-18 year olds, which both emphasise the importance of telling someone, a theme that is highlighted in the #toptiptuesday Instagram post from the UK Safer Internet Centre: