Stressed Out: the truth

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Stressed Out: the truth

By Aidan Macfarlane and Ann McPherson

Oxford University Press pound;4.99

If, like me, you get eye-rollingly impatient at the sound of the phrase "stressed out", especially when uttered by people who you think can't have time to find out about real life, you need to read this book. A request for help that reads, "I got pregnant at 14 and now have a little boy but I need some advise (sic) on how to look after him as I get stressed", makes you think that just maybe there's something real going on here after all.

At just 110 pages, including a useful index, what we're offered here is a selection of the tens of thousands of "Dear Doctor Ann" requests for help directed to the website teenagehealthfreak.org, run by two doctors specialising in young people's health and linked to a series of PSHE-related books for teenagers.

Few of the enquiries printed here are as dramatic as that from the teenage mother. Many are more like that of the 12-year-old who writes: "Dear Dr Ann, Just about everything really stresses me out!"

Many of these young contributors already know the answer they'll get. They just want someone trustworthy and calm who will take them seriously, and teenagehealthfreak.org is a valuable and anonymous place in which to find them. But if teenagers go there because they can't get help closer to hand, then that's surely a sharp lesson for responsible adults.

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