Female pupils report psychological distress

Psychological distress in female students is becoming an issue of increasing concern, new research has suggested. Conducted for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the study revealed a number of negative trends in this area for girls studying in grades seven to 12 in Ontario, Canada.

The 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey Mental Health and Wellbeing Report showed the number of female students experiencing psychological distress rose from 36 per cent in 1999 to 43 per cent in 2011.

Such feelings might include depression, unhappiness, anxiety, social dysfunction, sleep loss or constant stress.

Dr Robert Mann, a Senior Scientist at CAMH, noted: "Girls are reporting distress at a disproportionately high rate compared to 24 per cent of boys who reported these feelings."

Additionally, the investigation also highlighted suicidal ideation as a worry among female scholars, with young women found to contemplate and attempt taking their own lives at a greater rate than their male counterparts.

In response to the study, Dr Michael Hymans, an Associate Fellow of the Society, Educational Psychologist, former Head of a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) and former Head of an Educational Psychology Service, said: 

“In my experience, the most common issues amongst adolescent girls at school, who were depressed - though not necessarily clinically - were falling outs or insecurities over friendships. Usually friendships with other girls.

"Some girls who had, in some cases, attempted suicide or who were presented as suicidal tended to feel that way because of these issues.

"Research shows that depressed adolescent girls may have: 

  • A family history of depression; parents whose style is restrictive rather than supportive and open to emotional expression
  • Low self-esteem; difficulty in assertiveness
  • Over concern with appearance and notions of popularity
  • Experienced early puberty, physical development more advanced than their peers
  • Encountered negative life events
  • Been a victim of physical and/or sexual abuse
  • Distorted interpretation of life events
  • Difficulty in developing adaptive coping strategies.

“There is a flipside to this. Some girls don't want to be seen as insecure or depressed. They are eager to be labelled ‘hard’ by their peers, and their behaviour is often over the top, outrageous and competitive.

“In general, boys tend to deal with their insecurities slightly differently to girls. They are more outgoing, hostile and aggressive.

"This is often because they have lost faith in the loyalty of adults, usually due to expressions of rejection or actual rejection within the home. They set out to provoke a breach with adults as a means of relief from their insecurity.

"Their hostility can take two forms, either provocative acts calculated to make themselves outcasts and/or a sullen avoidance of offers of friendship from adults.”

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