What are girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice?

It may or may not be true, but life certainly isn’t all sweetness and light for our young women with a recent study which claims that 1 in 7 young girls between the ages of 10 and 15 aren’t happy, an increase over 21% over the past five years.

Not only that but rates of suicide in young women have risen almost 10% over the past year and figures released yesterday paint a grim picture with almost 20% of girls self-harming and over 28% living with a mental illness.

So what is it about life that makes it so hard for girls to live?

Is it the ever-present pressure of perfection which pervades our media?

Or the fact that women are a high risk group for experiencing sexual violence?

Is it the lack of support for women bringing children into the world?

Undoubtedly they all have their parts to play in the decline in women’s mental health; it seems there has been a perfect storm of rising pressures and failing support services brewing for over a decade and now, in the eye of the storm, women and girls are losing their lives.

I wanted to write a response with a call for action. Action for our girls.

But the thing that keeps buzzing through my mind is:

“Jesus wept.”

And I think perhaps we need to start with lament. Lament and confession that, as a society, we’re messing up.

We are raising young women who have no sense of their worth and no way to deal with trauma. And twenty years ago, Susanna Kaysen wrote in her memoir Girl, Interrupted words which I think still resonate today.

“When you’re sad you need to hear your sorrow structured into sound.”

We need to help our young people put their pain into words and melody.

And then we need to listen to their stories so that they can know they aren’t alone.

We can’t change with any immediacy.

What we can do is listen to one young person at a time until they hear that we care and that there is life worth living.