I was reading some posts on a counselling web site the other day and I came across a comment from a fellow counsellor. They noted that many more people are coming for counselling because of feeling anxious, depressed, not motivated, insecure and with no confidence in their own abilities to live an independent life.

I have noticed this is my own practice and at the moment it tends to be that the most affected age group is people between the ages of 30 and 40.  

Mental health or lack of it is certainly on the increase with more people coming forward for counselling and treatment.   But is it on the increase…or is it because people have become more aware?

Have we enabled people to recognise the symptoms themselves and not be afraid to reach out for help?  Or have we enabled our off spring to not cope with disappointment, rejection or loss? Or is it because the style of parenting we now use is very different to parenting in the 1940’s, 1950’s.

Parenting styles in the 1940’s – 1950’s appeared to be brutal to say the least.  In this era, babies were left in prams in the garden so they couldn’t be heard crying. They were kept in play pens like caged animals, kept on a rigorous feeding routine of 4 hourly feeds with a drink of water in between.   And they were held out over a potty at regular intervals in an attempt to toilet train them from the age of 6 months!! 

This was just the tip of the iceberg and children really were believed to not be seen or heard. How scary for babies and children this must have been.   No cuddling was allowed and mothers were certainly not allowed to kiss their male babies for risk of making them ‘soft’ and having too many feelings that were considered inappropriate for a male.

The point that the counsellor was trying to make, was why in this day and age when parenting styles allegedly are more responsive to the child’s needs, is there so much insecurity, depression and anxiety and an inability to cope with life in general.   When in the past, mental health problems were not so prevalent from an early age and people more or less just appeared to get on with life.

Reported cases of mental health were not so high five decades ago but this could have been for many reasons. Mental ill health was not recognised and talked about. People were reluctant to confess to mental ill health for fear of losing jobs, children, homes etcetera. In the past, it was seen as a weakness if you said you were sad or scared or not able to cope with life and you just struggled on until either physical illness or a mental illness stopped you in your tracks and maybe then you gave yourself permission to ask for help.

But was this way of parenting really so detrimental to the child’s development and have our ways of parenting now contributed to the rise in mental ill health, with parents providing instant gratification for every need and solving all their children’s problems instead of enabling them to problem solve for themselves and deal with disappointments and failures.  

Or have our generation and product of the parenting on the 1950’s, over compensated with our parenting styles thus producing a generation of children unable to cope with life’s demands.

I am not saying either style is right or wrong.   A blended, common sense approach is needed towards parenting.  But an approach that has love and communication as its foundation to enable a child to reach his or her full potential.

It will be interesting to see the results in the next 50 years, of the research studies on parenting now.

To be continued