Video will help teenagers to cope with depression

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Counsellors and health workers are seeking to pre-empt an alarming rise in suicides among young people by showing primary children that it's good to talk.

The Samaritans and Enfield and Haringey Health Authority this week launched the video Talking Point and an accompanying teaching pack, to encourage 10- and 11-year-olds to share their feelings.

It follows research, also unveiled as part of the Samaritan's Week '97, that underlined the growing rate of suicides among young people. It is now the second most common cause of death among people aged between 15 and 24.

More than one in four surveyed knew someone who had committed suicide. Yet the report, Exploring the Taboo, also found 37 per cent of respondents under 25 thought people with depression should "pull themselves together".

Other research has found the seeds of depression that can lead to suicidal feelings are planted as early as primary school, as children face the upheaval of the move to secondary school, the onset of puberty, school tests and other pressures.

The 14-minute video, fronted by former Blue Peter presenter Diane-Louise Jordan, shows north London children talking about the things that make them anxious - from fighting parents or bullying to feeling left out or stuck with their homework.

They also suggest the people they can turn to, the best times to do it - "after Brookside" is one suggestion - and ways to talk, from writing it down first to just coming straight out with it.

The wide range of suggestions is intended to start children thinking, and the accompanying teachers' pack contains follow-up ideas for stimulating classroom discussion.

Suicide is never mentioned, and the Samaritans are only mentioned by a child as someone to whom teenagers can turn - along with teachers, relatives and "my brother's girlfriend".

"It's not a video about suicide or the Samaritans," said Samaritans' spokesperson Di Stubbs. "It tries to raise an awareness that the more you talk about your feelings, the more you're able to deal with them before they become overwhelming."

Leo Atkins, Enfield and Haringey health promotion programme manager, said the Government's Health of the Nation targets aimed to cut suicide rates in 18- to 24-year-olds. But targeting that age-group could be too late.

"There has been a lot of resistance to working with very young children, so the idea was to look for a way to do it that was accessible and unthreatening," he said.

"In the past we've set up drama workshops in secondary schools and they've been reasonably successful. They're very immediate but also very expensive to run. So the idea of a video that could be used over again was very appealing."

The teachers' pack suggests lesson ideas for younger children - and usefully provides ideas for teachers on where they, too, can go for help if they feel concerned about the issues children are raising, either personally or professionally.

Copies of Talking Point and the teaching pack are available at pound;20, including VAT, postage and packaging from Pauline Biddlecombe at J Arthur Dixon, Forest Side, Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 5QW. Tel 01983 539067, fax 01983 529719.

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