Young people with anxiety – more help needed

Source: The Guardian

Source: The Guardian

They are startling figures. Two leading charities have confirmed a sharp increase in the numbers of young people needing help with anxiety disorders.

YouthNet, the national online charity for 16-25 year olds, and Anxiety UK say they have both seen increased demand for their online services that support young people. Anxiety UK said it experienced a 40% increase in visitors to their information sites and an incredible 106% increase in those accessing resources for parents and carers.

In January YouthNet had 10,936 visitors compared to just over 9,600 at the same time in 2013.

Both charities say the increase in figures compared to January 2013 highlight the need for reliable and trusted information for those coping with anxiety disorders. Incredibly, however, it isn’t just anxiety which is on the increase. The number of young people suffering from mental health illnesses is also up.

A recent BBC News report stated that the number of under 18’s being treated in adult mental health wards is now in its hundreds. Believe it or not, around 1 in 10 young people experience mental health problems. In a school of 1,800 students there could be at least 180 people who are experiencing mental health difficulties. It is a remarkable figure.

Mental health and anxiety have never really affected me. But researching the topic has really taught me that the issue is a growing problem amongst the UK society. So what has the government pledged to do?

A Department of Health spokesperson said such experiences are very “distressing” for young people and their families. Furthermore, it was confirmed the department had invested £54 million to improve services including better monitoring and more access to specialist treatment.

Young Minds Chief Executive, Sarah Brennan said “the lack of help early on means we are letting children’s problems escalate to serious levels.”

The figures on anxiety have led to YouthNet to create a series of videos and Anxiety UK says that throughout 2014 there are plans to increase services within schools.

BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat report on anxiety last week gives anyone, like me, an insight in to the life of someone with a mental health problem. The case study of twenty-one year old Anjeli Shah is breathtakingly striking. It is unbelievable to think of the symptoms described. She says she feels “quite panicky…my chest gets quite tight…I get out of breath”.

Despite visiting her local doctors it wasn’t until one GP spotted signs of anxiety that she was eventually referred to a counsellor. Anjeli also sought guidance and support from YouthNet.

Mental health does not just affect the mind. It has a bigger impact on the daily lives of so many people. Whether it be commuting to work or unable to go out alone, mental health is a huge social concern.

There is no definite cause of mental health. It has nothing to do with social background, lack of character or upbringing. Such issues can affect people of all ages, genders, races and income.

Source: Newcastle University

Source: Newcastle University

As an individual who has never come across a young person with mental illness, it is difficult for me to say what should be done. However, from what I have researched here are a few things that perhaps should be done:

SUPPORT
There are guidance and services available but with the rise in mental health and anxiety amongst young people, there needs to be specialists in every school to work with students.

END THE STIGMA
Unbelievably most of the people who cope with a mental illness will suffer discrimination or bullying. There needs to be a change to negative assumptions about mental health and increase levels of awareness both inside and outside of school

TALK
There is nothing to be afraid of. With celebrities supporting the causes of such issues, the consensus is about being positive and tackling mental health with others around you.

I am no expert. But what is clear is that the number of people suffering from anxiety and mental health problems is on the up and these people need to be helped and supported in appropriate surroundings with appropriate guidance.

There is some brilliant advice from YouthNet and Anxiety UK. BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat’s report on anxiety is also well worth a look. All the links are below.

http://www.youthnet.org/
http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/26273892

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Why cruises are key to Merseyside’s future

For years the waters of the River Mersey have supplied a great wealth of attraction and a rich maritime past. Now with the surge in tourists boarding cruise ships for their holiday there has been a boost in the Merseyside tourism sector. With a substantial increase in the number of ships visiting the city, docking close to the famous Liver Building, the future is certainly all about cruising.

2014 will see at least fifty visits by cruise ships to Liverpool, without counting visits from the Royal Navy vessels. Officially opened in 2007, the Liverpool Cruise Terminal cost £19 million to build. It previously and still does allow cruise ships to call at the city, offering passengers the security and safety of visiting a world class destination. The new build also improved services for customers of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Ferry. In 2012, after a bizarre decision to make Liverpool City Council repay previous funding, a decision was reached that would see cruise ships able to begin and end their journeys in the city, for the first time in over 40 years. Liverpool is now a world class cruising destination.

The first commercial transatlantic trade can be traced as far back as 1648 and today Liverpool’s shipping industry remains one of commercial ventures albeit pushed heavily through the tourism sector. This year is expected to see an estimated 70,000 visitors to Liverpool on cruise ships alone. That’s without any guesses toward the number of people from across the North West who will head to the city to catch a glimpse of the liners, including the German six-star rated MS Europa 2 and Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess. Thousands of pounds will be spent by tourists in the city, in restaurants, museums and shops, with Mayor Joe Anderson saying that each vessel will be worth up to £1 million to the local economy. This will continue to create and sustain jobs in the Merseyside tourism sector. The sector which is vital for Liverpool’s economic future.

An impressive view. Source: ITV

An impressive view. Source: ITV

Cruise passengers from Northern Britain have spent years travelling to the ‘cruise hub’ in Southampton and now Liverpool could offer an unparalleled northern hub for cruise liners. There has been some upset from the southern cruise city however. Experts, based in Southampton, have said that despite Liverpool’s rise in the cruise liner industry Southampton will not be affected. The so called ‘cruise wars’ between the two ports has been raging for many years. Last year, an announcement from Merseyside confirmed a dredging process would start to take place, at the tune of £35million of government funding, to allow larger container and passenger ships near the Seaforth estuary. At the same time, Southampton confirmed a privately funded project in to the regeneration of their docks, this time to the sound of £70 million. Southampton’s council has stated that its history will ensure the future of the docks remains alive. But Liverpool’s richer maritime history could see the city head to the top of the UK’s top cruise destination.

Ships still dominate the River Mersey and it is an industry which is vital to the growth and success of Merseyside’s economy. From the ferry that sails passengers between the Pier Head and Wirral to the large container ships that dock at the Port of Liverpool, the river is more than the bloodline for Liverpool. Cammell Laird, dominating the Wirral side of the Mersey continues to thrive as the largest and most successful ship repair and conversion specialist in the UK. Today, ship building at the Birkenhead site continues to mould the UK economy as well as keeping local people employed and the ship building industry alive.

Elsewhere, Liverpool is often regarded as the spiritual home of Cunard; the 175th anniversary of the historic cruise line will be celebrated in 2015 in front of the three graces at the Pier Head. The historic ‘unsinkable’ Titanic was registered in Liverpool and so the city name was carried on her stern; The Lusitania which entered service in Liverpool had a similar strong link to the city people. Both are two of the worst shipping disasters in maritime history. Whilst both of these ships history is marked in the city and the North West maritime past, it is hoped the disasters are not an indication for the future of shipping in the area.

Speak to any overseas tourists and one of the top destinations that is spoken is Liverpool. For it’s culture and history, the city has gained international recognition. See how many tourists openly praise the city on their arrival and it is very easy to see that visitors ‘love Liverpool’. Currently it is smaller ships that are beginning their cruise journeys in Liverpool, but it is hoped that the continuing support from the city council and visits from Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, Mary and Victoria in 2015, will not only pinpoint Liverpool as the ultimate cruising city but also create maritime history.

The docks of Liverpool have paved the way for economic security in Liverpool for generations. From when the trade of commodities such as sugar were stored in the Albert Dock warehouses right through the hosting of the ‘Tall Ships’ and the round the world ‘Clipper Race’, the waters have always been held in great respect by the people of Merseyside. Today, although Liverpool may not be the international trading port it once was, the future is now destined for tourism. Vehicle ferries across the Irish Sea have terminated in Liverpool for years, cruises which have been visiting seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and the next step is ensuring larger liners not only visit the city but ‘turnaround’ from there too.

There is no destination like Liverpool. History and 21st century culture are a mix within a stones throw from the new cruise terminal. The diversity of the great city, its people, architecture and culture alike, are a huge draw for tourists and it certainly makes sense for it to be the ultimate cruise stop on the global map. The city’s rich maritime history which is still celebrated and commemorated to this day means the only way forward for Liverpool is cruising on the Mersey.

For more details on the Cruise Terminal and visits by ships to Merseyside visit the official website: http://www.cruise-liverpool.com/

Gove out of touch ?

michael-gove-says-strikes-will-damage-childre_21395942
Less than 24 hours after criticising teachers for planned strikes, Education Secretary Michael Gove has put his foot in the deepening hole again. This time he has suggested that children need their own bedroom to study, despite a controversial government policy that effectively forces children to share bedrooms in the so called “bedroom tax”.

Mr Gove defended comments by minister Nick Bole saying people need a “room of one’s own” adding that “There are children, poor children, who do not have a room of their own in which to do their homework, in which to read, in which to fulfil their potential.” Today, the minister has come under fire again for his comments which have been described by some critics as being “hypocritical”.

The government’s highly divisive Bedroom Tax expects that children in council or housing association accommodation should share a room and that same-sex children should only have their own room when 16 years old. If the rules of the policy are broken then the family household is deemed to have a spare bedroom and benefits to the family can be cut by up to 14%.

So it’s a question of who the government ministers actually want to support? There is much speculation from voters that those represent the country are out of touch and surely the latest gaffe from Gove is a clear indication of unprofessionalism toward working class families. Essentially, if Mr Gove wants children to develop, read and remain enthusiastic about education, then these taxes and funding cuts hanging over the heads of working class families are going to need to be abolished. The comments from what appears to be a deluded Education Secretary are very much out of touch and look to favour those of middle and higher social classes. For those children fortunate to have a bedroom each, there is a sense of development and freedom, but the comments are ill-timed given financial situations, economic and infrastructure issues and negative representations toward certain sectors of society.

It isn’t the first time Mr Gove has been left red faced and embarrassed. His U-turns on his own education policies including the scrapping of a new GCSE format, the English Baccalaureate and homework guidelines. Headteachers have called for a calm as the new school term begins, suggesting that too many shake ups and U-turns on the curriculum have left students the victim of uncertainty and confusion, inevitably reflective in this year’s national exam results. The latest comments suggesting teachers should “see the error of their ways” in the wake of an announcement of strike action before Christmas have certainly sparked anger from teachers and unions across the land. The contradictory words about the need for one bedroom per child is certainly downgrading toward struggling families and complete ignorance toward his government policies.

It has been an uncertain time for the PM and his ministers over the weeks. Recently losing out the vote on military action in Syria led to suggestions the government was ill informed and quick to make hasty decisions. With no backing from MP’s the vote has been deemed a landmark for UK politics. As the uncertainty continues and a general election looming in 2015, what Michael Gove has done is send the current coalition further into a deep grave.

Is Britain a lagging country ?

Take a look at any other European country. Germany, France, Belgium and the rest. There is one recurring theme which astonishes me. The infrastructure. Railways, roads, buildings, lifestyle, everything. It’s brilliant. Take a look at Britain. It seems we are a country still stuck in the middle ages. Everything about the British infrastructure is a complete age behind the rest of Europe.

Whenever I visit European countries I am always, without fail, taken back by the astonishing networks of public transport. In Germany, not only do the S-Bahn and U-Bahn run on time and like clockwork, the carriages that transport the population combine the traditional in a modern environment. It’s the same story in Italy where I encountered a stunning and comfortable “double decker” train which left the platform at Rome at exactly 15:36. No earlier and no later. Taxi’s are a booming business, with the amount of tourists that visit, as are the amount of buses on the roads. And what’s even more astonishing is the fact that everything works. Buses are the right size, comfortable and actually suit the roads and passengers that utilise them. Whilst we’ve witnessed the economic crisis grip the globe, it was fascinating to see the cost of mass public transport costing very little. From one side of Berlin to the other, it cost 4 people around 8 euros.

Take a look at Britain in comparison. Trains are old, overcrowded and not suitable for the amount of people that now use them. Buses are majority single decker’s and often result in a stand up journey in some of the largest cities. Neither run on time either. Cancellations are frequent, delays the norm. It beggars belief as to how tourism can boom in Britain with such a miserable excuse of a transport network. Whilst continental fares are fairly low, the price of using a train here is rising for the eleventh year on the run. Even on a journey from Warrington to Liverpool (a short journey), it cost me nearly £10. And what do I pay for? A train that arrives ten minutes after it should have done. A train that is old, uncomfortable and the heater fixed on full. It can take up to 45 minutes to travel such a short distance. Ministers may promise on new trains arriving, but at the moment the majority are unsuitable for the capacity. It is no wonder that the European nations are taking the lead when it comes to modern modes of transport.

TRAIN

What is even more fascinating than all of this is how long it has taken for the rail network to be upgraded in Britain. The Liverpool – Manchester line is to be electrified in 2014, a project which will bring many benefits say the government. But why 2014? If Britain needs new trains, quicker journey times and a more reliable network, why has it taken until 2014 to begin an overhaul of such a tiny proportion of the railway world. And furthermore, the new HS2 railway line won’t be completed, if it ever gets started, until after 2030. It’s baffling how the HS2 website cites that “high speed rail has dramatically improved inter-city transport all over the world in the last 50 years” yet Britain has very little to show for such a sustained project to rival great rail networks in Germany, Switzerland, Japan and so on. Even more confusing is that the new line won’t be open for around another nearly twenty years, by which time the UK will be lagging behind once again.

Whilst the infrastructure of continental countries is certainly miles ahead of Britain, here there seems to be very little incentive to improve what we already have. There have been failed schemes such as the scrap your car programme and some local councils offer incentives to sell a car in return for public transport costs. None of the ideas really work. There has been an extraordinary boom in the number of cyclists on Britain’s roads. It’s cheaper, healthier and you don’t have to sit in rush hour tailbacks. All very good, but there is nothing to persuade me to take up cycling. Bicycle lanes seem to be no wider than the bike itself and then they only last around 100 yards. There is still a culture of cyclists being shunted to one side by aggressive drivers. If only we could take a leaf out of the Europeans book.

I first came across the cycling frenzy when I visited Bruges, Belgium. The amount of cyclists was completely breath taking. All types of bikes, from new ones, sports bikes, old bikes, motor bikes, you name it. Little roads at the side of the main carriageway are designated for cyclists only. And if there is a collision between a car and a cyclist, the cyclist has the right of way. It is completely eye opening when you see it. What’s better is that it actually works. Why? Because everybody knows the rules. Nobody seems to be in a rush, unlike the UK lifestyle, but Belgium, Germany, France and beyond have all acknowledged the sudden surge of cycling and have responded. So why can’t Britain? For one, roads are too narrow. If London was to become a cyclist friendly city, bike lanes would be running through office blocks. Secondly, the cost of just about everything in the UK has gone through the roof and so the pay needed to employ people to create new lanes would probably be extortionate. Although there are pledges to build new style of cycling paths and new designs to roundabouts, the plans are worthless. Still in existence is a culture of ignorance towards cyclists and that is hardly likely to change. Britain was built for horse and cart, not for cars, buses, lorries and cyclists together. It is rather sad.

groep fietsers op de Burg

A similar story beckons on the major roads, i.e. motorways. Autobahns in Germany are reasons why the Germans are so far advanced than us and it’s similar with the main highways in Belgium and France. The roads are smooth, wide and genuinely nice to drive. Here, motorways are things of nightmares. Traffic, tailbacks, car accidents and workers who aren’t there. The moment even a sound of car horn is heard on the M25, Sally Traffic has the unfortunate job of telling us all we can’t move anywhere in Britain. The culture of health and safety on the roads have gone too far. Not once when driving in Europe did we come across an accident or a queue on a motorway. In the UK, every drop of blood and molten plastic has to be cleared up by the so called “traffic wombles”, as described by Top Gear, who insist on closing the motorway for a year and a half. Whilst half of Britain’s imports and exports are sat in a queue on the M6, nothing is happening. It is an embarrassment to welcome Europeans to a country that to them is probably still stuck in medieval times.

There are some impressive ideas about British infrastructure, however. The approval of the new bridge to cross the River Mersey, easing congestion on the Runcorn Jubilee Bridge, will be a huge benefit I’m sure. But at a cost and at no benefit to local industry, since the steel is likely to be sourced from overseas. Other road improvements, tunnelling and bridges are in the pipeline to ease congestion around major cities and improve import and export travels. The 4G network will inevitably help businesses with internet connections in touch with the rest of Europe and the government is promising new flood defences in coastal risk towns. One thing is apparent. Time. Nothing ever seems to be underway or wanting to be completed soon by ministers and governments. The ideas are great, but there has been talk of a new bridge over the Mersey for years. Yes it’s been approved, but that work isn’t likely to start until 2014. Flood defences are promised but there is no real time scale as to when and what these will be. There never has ever been a sense of urgency and presence by these projects and so it really is no surprise when commentators talk about Britain falling behind.

It might seem a bit of a moan, but how can the rest of Europe, on the verge of bankruptcy, continue to provide and excel in their infrastructures. Mind you, there is one thing I have noticed on my travels that appears to be better in Britain than in the rest of Europe. Airports. My visit to Berlin’s national airport was underwhelming and so I hear are other European city gateways. One thing we can be proud of in Britain is the gateways in and out of the country. Manchester airport is a fantastic, modern environment with shops, eateries and space to relax. Even Liverpool’s airport, once a shed on the banks of the river, is now one of the busiest and most welcoming in the country. More people than ever are flying and so first arrivals on our soil need to impress. Plans to expand one of the world’s busiest airport, Heathrow, has been met with criticism. I say go for it. If we can’t expand then we can’t develop and so will be stuck in a timewarp for a very long time.

I always arrive back in Britain thinking how good our airports are. It’s strange, but if you compare ours to the Spanish, the Italians and others ours are far ahead than our continental counterparts. It’s a real shame that the rest of our infrastructure is just not up to the scratch of our European friends.

Young politicians should be embraced not pushed out

Cllr Jake Morrison, 20

Cllr Jake Morrison, 20

The Labour Party’s youngest councillor, Jake Morrison, was suspended earlier this month by his own party for an alleged row between himself and a Liverpool MP. The allegations were made by Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree. She describes the twenty year old as having a “complete lack of teamwork”. He claims she has never given him a chance. But does the suspension of a young councillor do more harm than good? Does it prevent the next generation of politicians from following their dreams and goals?

I am a great believer in local politics and government. It can certainly do a lot of good. The opportunity to bring up local issues that matter within the community is something of great recognition for a councillor and MP, non-more so than a younger member. There does, however, appear to be a negative representation about local government when it comes to issues about expenses, education and decision-making. All influence and change voters’ minds throughout any political career. For a younger person it may be more difficult to handle, but it shouldn’t prevent people from joining politics, especially as the door opens to welcome more independent candidates.

Decisions and U-turns are crucial to a success of a government. Too many decisions that too many people dislike will turn voters against your party, whilst too many U-turns will suggest that your party is not competent enough of leading the country. The way in which a leader manages and presents himself is crucial when connecting to the ordinary voter. And with every term that passes, it appears that the “three main” parties that once stood for such different ideologies have become merged and there is no clear distinction as to where one party ends and another one begins. There is now more room than ever for independent candidates to stand up and be heard. There has been an overwhelming support to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in light of political scandals and failures to serve by politicians. Seven out of ten people I have spoken to claim they will vote for UKIP or a candidate not from the main parties at the next general election. But back to the original question. If a young individual wants to join politics, then they should be embraced and welcomed for wanting to make a difference to social issues, including education, poverty and welfare. Whilst Cllr Morrison has stressed he has always and will continue to support the Labour Party, there is a big enough gap today for a young candidate to stand up and devise a campaign that they believe is right for their community. A stand-out candidate.

Whilst a stand-out candidate is needed to ensure a strong relationship begins, there does need to be a positive working environment. Cllr Morrison sticks out in my mind, not because of his politics, but because he is Liverpool’s youngest councillor. That goes a long way, especially in keeping young voters interested in politics. He is portrayed as a confident, young and positive individual. Even when he claimed that Luciana Berger MP had made “his life unbearable”, his attitude and presence was still largely positive and the determination to continue with his job came across very well. Luciana Berger MP has denied the allegations made by Mr Morrison, but despite that we must applaud the motivation and drive of the young councillor to continue despite these hiccups to his role.

Luciana Berger stated: “Of the 14 Labour councillors in the Wavertree Constituency you are the only one who chooses not to engage with my office, or get involved with our constituency activities.” Ofcourse it is impossible to determine what happened and whilst an internal party investigation is underway, we cannot be certain to make judgements.

What I do believe, however, is that we should welcome new and young life into politics. The next generation of councillors and MP’s are around and could be living next door to you. We must admire a young generation who are determined to make a stand, work for their communities and ensure their heart is where it needs to be.

Osborne’s disabled space embarrassment

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor's embarrassment.

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor’s embarrassment.

Could George Osborne be one of the most embarrassing Chancellors to have served the UK? Well it is quite possible. After fiascos including the ‘train snobbery’ and the booing by 80,000 sports fans during last years Paralympic games, today it can be revealed that Mr Osborne’s privatley driven car was seen parked in a disabled car space. Flouting the rules.

The pictures were taken on the M4 Motorway were the Chancellor was seen entering a service station for a McDonald’s meal. Onlookers have described how the car park was not full and the £50,000 taxpayer owned Range Rover was in no hurry to move. Charities have criticised Mr Osborne for the incident.

After announcing huge cuts to the welfare system, including millions of pounds worth of disability benefit, the Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, Richard Hawkes said: “Many are already struggling to make ends meet, yet the Chancellor’s response has been to cut vital financial support and squeeze local care budgets. They will see this as rubbing salt in their wounds.”

In the defence of Chancellor, a Tory spokesperson has insisted that he went into the service station unknowingly that the car was to park in the disabled space and that it would stay there. It remains unknown if the senior Tory cabinet minister condemned the driver of the Range Rover.

It’s not the first time Mr Osborne has been publicly ridiculed. Last year, he was forced to cough up £160 after sitting in a first class seat on a train with a second class ticket. After initially refusing, the story unfolded thanks to ITV Reporter Rachel Townsend who was on the same train. At the Paralympics he was booed by an 80,000 strong crowd at the London 2012 stadium, after huge cuts and little sign of an economic recovery.

In further bad news for Chancellor Osborne, workers inside the service station have told news agencies that they did not recognise the Minister – instead they thought it was his Labour Party shadow, Ed Balls. So another embarrassment for the Chancellor and for the government. What will be next? It’s like waiting for a car space.