Hello, I'm Sophie Ellis-Bextor and I'm best known for being a singer songwriter but I'm also mother to five boys including a teenager.
So I was really excited to team up with health insurers Bupa to find out about the specific challenges that have been faced by
teenagers during this last nine months and also how parents like me can help support our teenagers so they get back to their version of normal.
Well, now I'm lucky enough to be talking to Nikki Lilly who has come here to be a voice of a generation really.
Nikki is sixteen and I want to find out from her: how do you think you and your friends have found it?
And has it been peaceful, has it been momentous, has it been scary?
It was definitely scary at the beginning because there was so much uncertainty and I think probably everyone felt the same way.
Me and my friends would do Zoom calls and it really helped us having a group chat where we could all speak
together because it felt like a proper support group almost.
A lot of my generation have grown up this year I feel like, because of everything going on.
But I also think we've grown up in a lot of ways with, you know, our perspective on lots of different situations.
The little things, the importance of living in the moment and not worrying about what's going to happen tomorrow
and just making the most of what you have and who you have in your life.
But I think it's with, you know, parents if they can just really try their best to basically communicate to their kids that
they are there for them and they do have time for them. But even when they feel like their kids are doing OK, it's just instilling
that idea in them, so when they are struggling, in the back of their head they know that you know, "My mum or my dad or
my guardian does have time for me, I can go to them." Instead of kind of thinking, "They're stressed I'm not going to stress
them out anymore, I'm not going to burden them with how I'm feeling, how I'm feeling doesn't matter", because it does.
So I'm joined by Dr Lucy Foulkes who is a teen psychologist. Lucy, I wanted to talk to you about the effect of the pandemic
in particular, what it feels like when you've missed out on these really big milestones, that usually happen during your teenage years? A year or six months for a teenager is a lot longer than a year or six months for an adult and so much happens in those
months that it's not just a case of: "Oh we'll just do it again next year". Leaving school or starting university,
obviously they have been able to do a version of those things, but not the version they might have wanted.
And also, I didn't realise what's happening neurologically. How that side of things works for your teenage years.
Adolescence is such a period of change, so it's a period of change on the outside world
and it's a period of change in terms of your hormones and your brain development. And a lot of what we might
previously have just put down to hormones, even though hormones are still important, are actually the kind of
teenage typical behaviours. Like mood swings or peer pressure or risk-taking actually can be partly explained by what's happening in the brain.
Being a teenager is really hard. Raising a teenager is really hard.
We know that development continues right through the teenage years and well into the twenties and sometimes even the thirties.
Obviously this pandemic has been an exceptional and unusual source of stress, but throughout life there's going to be
periods of stress and difficulty in all different shapes and sizes. And for someone to ask you how you are and to
not have expectations of how you are supposed to be feeling or not try and fix it; it's very tempting to jump in with solutions
when actually a lot of the time we just want space to talk about what's happening and to have those experiences and those feelings validated and recognised.
So, now I'm going to be talking to Pablo Vandenabeele who is a Psychiatrist and Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa.
How as a parent can you tell the difference between normal teenage behaviour and when it's actually something you should be a bit more concerned about?
When we think about the psychological symptoms, we're kind of thinking about
a lowering in mood, more irritability, loss of interest, social withdrawal, those kind of things.
When we think about the more biological symptoms, we're kind of thinking sleep disturbance, changes in appetite
a lot of the time loss in appetite, poor concentration and of course a lot of that can well be part of a normal teenager's
behaviour, but if it becomes persistent, if it sort of goes on day after day after day into weeks on end, then I think it might be
something more than just "teenager behaviour".
If you are worried, let's say your young person says that they're feeling really very low, what can you do next?
Where can you turn for help?
Like with anything in health, the quicker you treat something or the quicker you address something the better the prognosis is likely to be. Now, GPs are often a very good first port of call and they're very familiar about mental health and mental wellbeing.
But there's also an awful lot of good information available online for example and I know that on the Bupa website there's a Mental Health Hub.
You know, if you are feeling depressed and it's in response to a big event, like what we've had this year, it can presumably
be a little bit difficult sometimes to unpick the emotions that are just the normal response?
Covid restrictions and all that, it can be understandable why someone is feeling low and so forth, but that still can
progress to somebody becoming depressed so the mere fact that you can pinpoint, "This is what caused it"
doesn't mean that you don't have the condition.
Mental health affects us all in so many different ways and we're only really just starting to understand how this pandemic
has affected our own mental wellbeing. That first conversation is the first and small step to getting a child the help
and support that they need and there is support out there for you too. If you head to Bupa you can see lots of material online
to help you and also the mental health charity, Mind, has got lots of support. So don't worry, you're doing the right thing,
trust your instincts, have that conversation and help is at hand.