Eighteen is thought of as a coming of age – the time when a child in the UK legally becomes an adult, is emotionally mature and old enough to vote. We know from our own experience, and that of the children and young people we work with, that 18 is an arbitrary cut-off point and that emotional, social, psychological and physical development continue into our mid-20s – at least. The definition of adolescence has changed during the past century to reflect elements of biological growth such as earlier puberty, and social role transitions such as later completion of education, delayed marriage and parenthood.1 In 2015, the Education and Skills Act legislated that all young people in England must remain in education or training until they are 18 (16 in other parts of the UK).2
These changes suggest the need for an expanded definition of adolescence to develop appropriate laws, social policies and, perhaps most importantly, services. Rather than age 10–18, 10–25 is surely a better fit for adolescence, and expanding the definition would call for extended investments across a broader range of agencies. While some support services have extended their remit to include young people up to the age of 25, most are yet to catch up in most parts of the UK, even though there are increasing numbers of ‘older’ young people seeking mental health support. According to one mental health charity, those aged 18–25 years have the highest prevalence of mental illness (34%) compared to other age groups,3 so it’s high time that adolescence was considered in a broader sense.
The September issue of BACP's Children, Young People and Families journal (BACP CYPF) has a back to school feel. Reasons to be cheerful demonstrates how education and counselling can sit together in an emotionally healthy school and, in a similar vein, When working together works explains how being part of the integrated local authority offer can make school counselling better for everyone. Elsewhere, Killing the Buddha is a cautionary tale against perceiving school counsellors as wise and powerful – none of us are, whatever environment we work in and however long we’ve been practicing. Also in this issue, contributors share the ways that their personal experiences have informed their work – as they so often do? Phantasy sibling transference is explored in The only-child in therapy, while misapprehensions and inaccurate beliefs about autism are challenged in Different, not deficient. If you have noticed an overlap between your personal and professional experiences and would like to explore this in an article, do get in touch with your ideas.
Following our trauma-themed conference in March, I’ve worked with the excellent opening keynote speaker Claire Harrison-Breed on this month’s featured article, The impossible dilemma: when seeking safety is dangerous. Her article offers a jargon-free explanation of infant development, attachment, dissociation and trauma and is a must-read for anyone seeking to offer a more trauma-informed approach to the children and young people they support.
This September marks my coming of age (of sorts) as Editor of BACP CYPF journal. It’s not my 18th year, but my 18th issue at the helm, which I can’t quite believe. I also can’t quite believe that our readership has grown to almost 20,000 (made up of divisional members plus online subscribers). I see this as confirmation that the content remains on point and I will continue my endeavor to keep the journal relevant, challenging and informative. Whether you’re a new or regular reader, I hope you enjoy the latest issue.
1. Sawyer SM, Azzopardi PS, Wickremarathne D, Patton GC. The age of adolescence. Lancet Child Adolescent Health. 2018 March; 2(3): 223–228. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30169257/ (accessed August 2023).
2. Gov.UK. School leaving age. www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school (accessed August 2023).
3. National Institute of Mental Health. Mental Illness. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness#:~:text=Prevalence%20of%20Any%20Mental%20Illness%20(AMI),-Figure%201%20shows&text=This%20number%20represented%2022.8%25%20of,50%20and%20older%20(15.0%25) (accessed August 2023).
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