This week is Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 and Childline Gibraltar is running a series of events promoting it.
The week has received a high profile thanks to the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate together with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex Prince Harry and Megan, explains Gibraltar Childline Trustee Annie Green.
This year’s theme is about taking steps to be ‘Healthy: Inside and Out’.
The theme encourages children, young people and adults to look after their bodies and minds.
“Children and teenagers these days are in my view and I know my view is shared by many people that they are feeling under pressure,” said Childline Chairwoman Annie Green.
“Many teenagers we know take their phones to bed with them and they are constantly in touch through social media.”
Childline Gibraltar launches its WhatsApp support this week, enabling them to make their services as approachable as possible, to as many children, young people and adults that wish to contact them.
“We have noticed that certain age groups are using Facebook less and Instagram more,” said Mrs Green.
“Facebook of course is being used by the Mums and Dads and in some cases their Grannies and Granddads so that is the last place these youngsters want to be.”
Mrs Green added that social media is a big pressure for both females and males but based on what the charity gleans it is particularly pressuring for females.
Instagram is often used to show how amazing someone’s life is, and show off how they look, how they dress etc and this makes young people feel vulnerable.
Speaking about Instagram Mrs Green said that both adults and young people are doing this.
“It quite simply puts them under more pressure,” she said.
Aside from the pressures of social media some children also endure pressure with regards to their education.
However, this often depends on the parents and guardians.
“Gibraltar’s schools in my opinion do an excellent job in providing appropriate support,” Mrs Green said.
“Two counsellors have been employed for the secondary schools, that came as great news to us and certainly in our experience the schools really do an excellent job in supporting the more vulnerable child.”
“But, sadly some despite all those great efforts children just slip through the net and this is what we are here for.”
The week will see Childline Gibraltar raise awareness of the issues that young people are bringing to them, raise awareness of what we have done “and there is a great deal of good work being done”.
Child Mental Health week also coincided with Global Safer Internet Day the Royal Gibraltar Police ran an awareness campaign locally last Tuesday at a stall in John Mackintosh Square. Childline also joined in the stall.
“Just to show our support because the internet is again a massive problem,” said Mrs Green.
“We are concerned about unsupervised access to the world wide web of all kinds of sites.”
She described how computer generated algorithms will pick up on a child’s interests and feed them more information on this subject.
The problem occurs when the algorithm feeds the child inappropriate content.
“There are children with suicidal thoughts and the algorithms will pick up on that,” she said.
“If words like depression or feeling sad are mentioned before you know it the algorithms are picking this up and the children are being sent ways in which to hide your suicidal thoughts and ways in which suicide has been committed.”
An example of this was recently highlighted by the father of a young girl in the UK who committed suicide he believes because of algorithms on Instagram.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja