Owen Jones makes an important point within the ongoing debate over children's mental health, asking us to look collectively beneath our obsession with services to the very way in which we operate as a society.
As a mother, I have watched my two teenaged daughters struggle with the pressures Jones mentions around identity, body image, pressure from peers and teachers in terms of vastly divergent but equally stressful expectations. I've also watched them either support or confront their male friends on issues ranging from sexuality to sexting to macho competitiveness in the classroom.
In my professional role, I work with migrant and refugee mothers as they face similar issues - yes, often compounded by poverty, language barriers and discrimination... But essentially we all talk about the same thing; how to connect with our children as they face up to these complex, new pressures, especially when we ourselves feel increasingly embattled.
We live in a fast-paced society where the pressure to get your head down and keep fighting on is huge, whatever our particular struggles, and where we don't seem to have time to pause, and connect. We don't mean to do it - parents, teachers, professionals - but we model a disconnectedness to our young people which feeds right into the harsh expectations Jones refers to - and, of course, provides a perfect feeding ground for further inequality, social division and mental health problems.
There is undeniably a shortage of mental health services for children and young people. There are undeniably harsh inequalities which undermine their wellbeing. But all of us as adults can do so much with very little: pause, and connect, show them we're listening and model the kind of self-care and compassion for others that gives them hope.
Yes, we need investment in services. But there must be a remorseless focus on what drives children to mental distress in the first place. Overcrowded and poor housing. Poor diet. Lack of exercise. Family conflict. The stresses of poverty, from internalised shame to being conscious of not having the same opportunities as other children. Consumer capitalism, which judges and defines children by what trainers they wear. An educational culture obsessed with exams. If we want a society that promotes happiness and wellbeing among children, these are all problems that have to be addressed. How tragic, then, that life is being made harder for children by both government policy and ever harsher attitudes and expectations. The children will suffer for it, and so will our country’s future.