It has been both a difficult and revealing week in news. Just this morning the Guardian reported that councils have warned that Children's services are more than 600 million 'in the red'. Yesterday the Times reported that younger people in the north of England are up to 50 per cent more likely than those in the south to die early as poverty and lack of opportunity drive "diseases of despair".
The feature highlighted that deaths under the age of 75 related to alcohol, obesity, smoking and other coping behaviours are 20 per cent more common in the north, and the latest analysis suggests the north south divide is a widening problem at younger ages.
Meanwhile headlines across the country come from hard-hitting examples of what this despair can look like, and to where it can lead.
A senior high court judge had to step in to warn health service officials that he would not hesitate to hold them accountable if a teenage girl at risk of suicide was not found suitable care. One boy living with ADHD ended his life after becoming worried about being unable to pay a £600 rail fine and fearing being sent to prison.
Meanwhile, Rachel Sylvester wrote in her Times column that if jihadists and gangs are recruiting the same alienated young people then crime and terrorism must be tackled together. The most striking quote from this piece suggests "Whitehall opinion is divided: some think counter terrorism is about shooting the crocodiles as they come near to the boat; others think it is necessary to drain the swamp. In fact, the best way to keep the country safe is to find the lost boys in the jungle and give them a home."
Giving 'Generation Despair' a home, means giving them a future.
Our guiding star through these tumultuous times must be the future, and those who will inherit it. The tripling of tuition fees and the Brexit referendum are just two recent examples of moves that have left young people feeling unheard and disenfranchised to the point of despair. Young people who are already facing rising pressures feel their post-school prospects look increasingly bleak. This is especially the case for those who are most disadvantaged.
More and more of our nation's young people are falling into downward spirals, becoming another 'how we failed' tragic news story. Without investing in the mental health of our children and young people, we cannot claim to be invested in the long-term prosperity of this country.
Often things start to go wrong for children from a very early age. Over half of adult mental health problems are established by the age of 14. Creating a society that feels like a home for these young people is crucial. A homely society that young people can feel proud to be a part of starts with building social scaffolding to support young people to flourish.
The need to build social scaffolding is increasingly urgent, and with so many feeling lost in modern society, the challenge goes beyond healthcare. That's why we need a cross government response working across education, health, the Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Justice. The challenge we face is complex but by no means insurmountable. Recognising the complexity of planning the path towards a mentally thriving society is the first step towards paving it.