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26 June 2015, 07:20
More than 8,500 16- and 17-year-olds in Hertfordshire say they have lost sleep because of stress in the last year.
That's as more than a third (37%) of 16 and 17-year-olds in East England - some 54,000 young people - suffered sleepless nights in the last year, according to new research from The Children's Society.
The research, published today, suggests we are in danger of creating a 'worried generation' - with 35% of 16 and 17-year-olds in East England also saying they frequently feel anxious and 77% saying they have felt judged simply for being a teenager.
The survey found that, nationally, 25% of 16 and 17-year-olds say they often feel sad, and one in four say they do not feel optimistic about the future. The concern is mirrored among parents, with 70% saying that life is tougher for their teenagers than it was for them.
The Children's Society's new Seriously Awkward campaign highlights the huge challenges that 16 and 17-year-olds face. They are more likely to go missing or be a victim of violent crime than any other age group. They are also at a high risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.
The Children's Society is lobbying for a change in the law to protect children aged 16 and 17 from abuse and neglect, and ensure that support services, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health services, always treat them as children and offer them support when they need it.
At the time when these teenagers need the most help, support for things such as mental health or housing is woefully inadequate and they often fall through the gaps between children's and adult services. The lack of provision for teenagers with mental health problems means many are placed on adult mental health wards or, in some cases, have even been detained in police cells.
Beatrice, a 17-year-old student, said: "I've had anxiety and depression throughout my teens. At my lowest ebb, I was surviving on two hours sleep at night and was self-harming. It took years for me to get the mental health support I needed.
"Teenagers are under so much pressure. We're constantly being told by society that we are lazy or up to no good and at the same time we're also expected to do well and get a job or go to university.
"But the odds are stacked against us. The cost of going to university has rocketed up, salaries are low and most people my age aren't hopeful about the future. At 16 and 17 we're expected to be resilient and behave like adults but we don't have the same rights as adults and can't make our voices heard."
Sherry Peck, Area Director for The Children's Society in the East of England, said: "This research reveals that a generation of teenagers are being let down by society. Many are struggling with a range of issues but are dismissed as resilient enough to cope, and denied the same legal protection and services as younger children.
"For the most vulnerable teenagers, those suffering from abuse, neglect and homelessness, and mental health issues, the future can be even more bleak. All children including those aged 16 and 17 should feel safe and supported and that's why we're urgently calling on the Government to change the law to protect all 16 and 17 year olds from abuse and neglect, provide better services to support them, and offer special protection for those who are most vulnerable."
Teenagers suffering abuse and neglect may be overlooked by children's services because they are deemed older and more resilient but lack financial independence to remove themselves from harmful situations.
For more information or to sign a petition to change the law to protect 16 and 17 year olds visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk/seriouslyawkward