Where relevant, we have also presented some of the statutory guidance relating to PSHE.
Perfectionism is a personality characteristic that reflects a need to be perfect. This often exists alongside harsh self-criticism and there is evidence to show that perfectionism is on the rise; recent meta-analysis showed that perfectionism is rising rapidly among university-aged young people, with modelling suggesting that by 2050, almost one in three people will report clinically relevant levels of perfectionism.
WHY IS PERFECTIONISM POTENTIALLY PROBLEMATIC?
The latest research not only shows that incidence is on the rise, but that is contributes to a litany of serious mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, anorexia and suicide ideation.
LONELINESS & ISOLATION
Loneliness and isolation are issues usually associated with older people. Interestingly, the Loneliness & Isolation section of the What’s Up With Everyone? website is one of the most visited. While both loneliness and isolation can be a challenge for many people across their lives, especially older people who may have fewer social connections, young people are also badly affected. Moving to college, university or the workplace may pose a particular challenge to young people, as they navigate this transition. They may experience heightened anxiety about a number of issues, including their identity as they attempt to find their place in a world that puts a lot of emphasis on appearance and popularity, the threat of managing independently in the big world, forging a career pathway, and finding satisfying and supportive relationships.
The pressure to fit in and the intense focus on social experience can be overwhelming. This may be worse if a young person is already marginalised, without access to the resources of their peers (such as the internet), or when from minority communities, who may be subject to discrimination.
Statutory Guidance: Pupils should be supported to recognise what makes them feel lonely. Self-focused or isolating lifestyle choices can lead to unhappiness and being disconnected from society for those who have greater need for companionship and relationships.
Independence is usually regarded as a positive experience so why has independence been identified as a mental health challenge for young people? Becoming independent can certainly be a positive experience, but it is not without its challenges. Independence is all about making your own way in the world and involves acquiring new skills, taking risks and having the confidence to learn from your mistakes. Any challenges associated with living independently can be stressful and cause anxiety – and young people may feel that asking for help and support is a sign of weakness.
It is important to recognise that we all depend on other people to some extent, and others will always depend on us. The trick is to balance the desire for independence with the practicality of seeking and giving support to each other.
Much of the research we see and read about in the media is concerned with screen time and its associations with depression, anxiety and social isolation. However, recent advice to parents is not to just focus on screen time, but rather on the online content young people consume and how actively engaging (as opposed to passive scrolling) and creative engagement can have a positive effect.
IS THE IDEA OF COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS THE REAL ISSUE HERE?
Many of the images and lives we are all presented with across social media are perceived standard that is impossible to live up to. However, there are also pressures to share opinions, personal information and photographs on an extreme scale – behaviours that are encouraged by persuasive loops of reward, duty, exchange and a need for validation. This need for ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ has decreased the quality of communication and increased social withdrawal, self-neglect, poor diet and family conflict.
Government, industry chiefs and technology designers are now incorporating new policies and guidelines to ensure social media platforms design their online services more responsibly and consider young people’s online rights, needs and developmental milestones.
Statutory Guidance: The internet and social media have important characteristics which young people should be aware of in order to help them use them discriminatingly. Secondary school pupils should know the similarities and differences between the online world and the physical world, and how to identify harmful behaviours online (including bullying, abuse or harassment) and how to report, or find support, if they have been affected by those behaviours.
Competitiveness can certainly be a positive quality to have and levels of it clearly vary among individuals. However, we should recognise that it can be influenced by external factors, such as the number of competitors and the presence of audiences. Competitiveness can be problematic when someone is hypercompetitive.
Individuals who are hypercompetitive have a very strong urge to compete and win at all costs because winning is a big part of who they are. Hypercompetitiveness is related to low self-esteem, high neuroticism (a personality trait that tends towards anxiety, depression, self-doubt and other negative feelings), and high aggression. Other types of competitiveness can also be a problem if they cause people emotional distress.
Young people face more competitive environments these days, such as the job market and university admission, which could be related to the increased level of perfectionism seen in recent years. This is concerning because of its association with psychological disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
Research has shown that there are many barriers to young people seeking help. These include:
- Stigma and embarrassment about seeking help
- Confidentiality and trust in relation to the potential source of help
- Difficulty identifying the symptoms of mental illness
- Lack of accessibility
- Preference to rely on themselves rather than seeking external help for their problems
- Concern about the characteristics of the potential provider of help
- Lack of knowledge about mental health services
- Fear about the act of seeking help or the source of help.
Statutory Guidance: Pupils should be taught how to judge when they, or someone they know, needs support and where they can seek help if they have concerns. This should include details on which adults in school and externally can help.
This is why the What’s Up With Everyone website has a ‘seeking help’ page, which gives students lots of options for finding support for any mental health problem they may have: www.whatsupwitheveryone.com/help.php
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