MORE than two in five 16 and 17-year-olds in Yorkshire and the Humber are so anxious they have suffered sleepless nights, according to the findings of a survey by a leading children’s charity.
The figures have been drawn from research by the Children’s Society which also found that a quarter of the same age group nationally often feel sad and do not feel optimistic about the future.
The teenagers fears were underlined by the feelings of parents with 70 per cent saying that life is tougher for their offspring than it was for themselves. The Children’s Society is launching a campaign – Seriously Awkward – to raise concerns about the pressures on 16 and 17-year-olds and called on the government to provide the age group with the same kind of legal protections afforded to younger children.
As well as finding 43 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds in the region had suffered from sleepless nights in the last year – which equates to 56,000 - the survey also found 41 per cent said they frequently feel anxious. The Children’s Society said today’s 16 and 17-year-olds are more likely to go missing or be a victim of violent crime than any other age group and are also at a high risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.
The charity said there is a misconception that teenagers do not require as much protection as younger children and that they are often more in need of help than any other age group. They have greater freedom than younger children which can put them in risky situations such as being exposed to drugs, alcohol or harmful adults.
Teenagers suffering abuse and neglect may be overlooked by children’s services because they are deemed older and more resilient but lack financial independence to remove themselves from harmful situations.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “This research reveals that a generation of teenagers are being let down by society. Many are struggling with a range of issues but are dismissed as resilient enough to cope, and denied the same legal protection and services as younger children. For the most vulnerable teenagers, those suffering from abuse, neglect and homelessness, and mental health issues, the future can be even more bleak. All children including those aged 16 and 17 should feel safe and supported and that’s why we’re urgently calling on the Government to change the law to protect all 16 and 17-year-olds from abuse and neglect, provide better services to support them, and offer special protection for those who are most vulnerable.”
The charity said an estimated half a million 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK face particular risk of harm because they are already dealing with multiple issues such as poverty, poor health or a lack of supportive relationships.
A Government spokesman said: “All young people deserve to grow up feeling safe and supported. Many schools and colleges are already doing excellent work to make sure their pupils are well supported during times of pressure, but we want to do more to help them address the challenges they face head on.
“This is why we are promoting greater use of counselling in schools, improving teaching about mental health, and supporting joint working between mental health services and schools as part of a fresh focus to ensure children can thrive and live life to the full both inside and out the classroom.”