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Anxiety culture leads to child self-harm, government advisor tells Morpeth sixthform

PUBLISHED: 18:00 13 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:07 18 September 2014

Government advisor Prof Tanya Byron (centre) at her lecture to Bethnal Green's Morpeth Sixthform

Government advisor Prof Tanya Byron (centre) at her lecture to Bethnal Green's Morpeth Sixthform

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Today's students lack emotional resilience because society in trying to eliminate risk and failure has created a culture of children surrounded by anxiety and pressure.

That was the stark warning a top psychologist and government advisor gave to the Health Secretary, sixthform students at Bethnal Green’s Morpeth Secondary learned.

The youngsters had a lecture from TV’s acclaimed clinical psychologist Prof Tanya Byron, a Whitehall advisor on adolescent mental health and author of numerous books and presenter of several programmes.

She described the ways society has tried to eliminate risk and failure, resulting in her currently treating more children suffering from anorexia, depression and self-harm than ever before, the sixthformers heard.

She had told the Education Secretary in 2012: “We are seeing an increasing number of young people breaking down who are bright and don’t come from backgrounds where you would predict a greater chance of having emotional, psychological or mental health problems.

“There is real concern in the world of child and adolescent mental health that we have a generation who are lacking massively in emotional resilience.” 
Prof Byron was invited to the school as the first speaker in a series of motivational talks to the sixth form.

Headteacher Jemima Reilly said: “Our aim is to expose our sixth form to people from different backgrounds, experiences and passions to challenge their thinking.”

Prof Byron gave advice about academic success following from children who have first learnt to fail well, when they learn to reflect on their mistakes, take responsibility for their actions and try again. This develops skills to cope with life’s challenges.

Year 12 and 13 pupils who are studying psychology at AS and A levels were invited to stay after the lecture on September 5 for an intimate Q&A session.

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