Our modern culture is killing the kids

IAN COLLINS Two pairs of friends of mine have beautiful and talented sons in their twenties who, when the world should be at their feet, have something new and crushing in common.


Two pairs of friends of mine have beautiful and talented sons in their twenties who, when the world should be at their feet, have something new and crushing in common.

Both have been sectioned - detained - under the Mental Health Act.

One has drug-induced schizophrenia, the other has drug-induced something-yet-to-be-determined.

The schizophrenic, a gentle and utterly charming musician as I remember him, locked members of his family in a bedroom before starting a fire in the hall.

The second lad, a gifted artist, is now engulfed by the demons bursting from his disturbed head. They leave him notes. They tell him to do strange things with the strong potential of danger to himself and/or others.

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Both these poor boys come from well-off backgrounds. Each has always been able to count on two supportive parents - and yet they now seem so completely lost.

The families are blighted too. One doubtless well-meaning professional told one distraught mum that her son “just needs more love”. She laughed before crying.

While youthful excess has always been part of the human picture, the degree has changed these days, Now we get the third degree.

I spy a link between the two facts that Britain has a booming economy and the worst social problems in Europe. Something in all-consuming consumerism is killing us. Boom and bust. Bang, bang.

Amid all the Blairite blather about abolishing child poverty, we're junking a generation. A million children - if not a great many more - now have mental health problems.

Although both the lads mentioned above had the kind of mothers who mince organic beef to shape into pretend burgers so they appear to eat the same rubbish as their friends, I see a close connection between junk food and junked people.

All those additives in what are complex chemical cocktails can affect and alter the brain. Over a decade I watched children arriving at a secondary school opposite my house in London, getting madder and madder - topping up internal poison levels with fizzy drinks and snacks as clearly they had ceased to encounter breakfast. Obesity and toxicity and malnutrition go hand in hand.

And then it's a short step from bad diet to binge drinking and drug blitzes. Anything can be binned in our bodies.

I like a drink or several but the amount and the mix of alcohol that pass for a merry evening these days can be absolutely scary. Lager is eclipsing dark beer because it is easier to gulp by the litre and gallon.

What is it about our culture that makes so many people seek oblivion?

In past columns I've called for the legalisation of cannabis. While I still believe it can uniquely ease the pain of certain conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, for most people regular use means dicing with deadly danger - especially when mixed with everything now available to give-it-a-go youth.

On a press trip to Amsterdam I thought I might sample a cannabis café in the spirit of research, but the delightful sights needed no enhancement. That really was a trip. But two kids in the party, out of their minds on something or other, missed almost everything. Drugs can be quite spectacularly boring.

In party spirit a gift of cannabis was added to the recipe of my friend's 40th birthday cake. We both agreed that was one good cake ruined.

Now I oppose the legalisation of cannabis, especially as the skunk variety is far stronger than the dope of peaceful hippy days. You end up with Pete Doherty, not Donovan.

Drugs lie behind most of this country's ills - the anti-social behaviour, violence, crime, the accidents, break-ups and break-downs. Most offences have a drug element, and almost every addict is a one-junkie crime wave - how else to pay to assuage the craving?

Mentally disturbed people released under care(lessness) in the community programmes - many with a history of drug misuse - now kill one person in Britain in an average week. Michael Stone, who attacked the Russell family with a hammer, was a deranged heroin addict.

Even when committing suicide, young people think themselves invincible, inviolable, immortal. And they now have such role models: look at Kate Moss, whose earnings have more than doubled since her cocaine habit was exposed. Ugly cow. How I hate fashion.

Drugs are good business in consumerist Britain it seems, where crime really does pay. But the customers - and the culture - are being slaughtered.