by Felicity Collier
MINISTERS need to find effective ways to address the growing epidemic of anxiety and depression among young women, teachers urged yesterday.
A quarter of women aged 16 to 24 are showing symptoms of mental health issues — three times more than young men, the NASUWT union warned.
Delegates at the TUC Women’s Conference heard about a dramatic rise in rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young women.
NASUWT said that it is increasingly hearing reports from female students about feelings of irritability, anxiety, feelings of panic, and trouble sleeping.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) reported that one in four students skipped school because of anxiety, with bullying as a result of mental health issues is affecting 16 per cent.
NASUWT’s Jane Setchfield said that she had experienced first-hand the “damaging” effects of social media on students’ wellbeing, such as isolation and inability to interact with their peers.
It is also fuelling body image fears, and the need to “keep up” with friends is resulting in insomnia.
Ms Setchfield said that trade unions are “ideally placed to support” young women.
NUT delegate Leigh Seedhouse said: “Young people need to be in a learning environment that supports and nurtures them,” adding that proper funding for mental health services is essential.
Social media has brought unprecedented pressures on young women, such as “constant exposure to unattainable aspirations of body image,” a Communication Workers Union (CWU) motion reported.
Research shows that women are twice as likely than men to state that they are dissatisfied with their appearance.
A total of 87 per cent of girls aged 11 to 21 years said that they think women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability, the CWU said.