As a secondary school teacher, I am unfortunately not at all surprised to read how many children are being treated for mental health problems in England (record 420,000 children a month in England treated for mental health problems, 22 may).
Although your article details several supposed causes for the increase in mental health problems among young people, I am struck by how well it addresses the glaring lack of mental health support and provision in schools. I have worked in four public secondary schools in England over the last decade, and in each of them the waiting list for pupils to see a mental health nurse at school – if there is one has one at all – lasts for months. Students simply do not bother to turn to school services for help.
Students often turn to teachers and support staff when they need them. Of course, we do our best, but with staff shortages, funding cuts, and teacher burnout, there simply aren’t the organizations needed to support students in the way they need and they deserve. Like so many colleagues, I never regret being the person students turn to, but teachers are not mental health professionals. If Ofsted gave as much importance to mental health services in schools as, say, academic achievement, could schools’ financial priorities realign?
Name and address provided
Your article highlights the acute need for government-funded psychological support in every secondary school, academy and college of higher education. This is something we have long campaigned for. Many children and young people are in distress, but are not always able to access timely help from local NHS services. Funded school councils are now essential to ease the pressure on these services, to support our children and young people before they reach a point of crisis, and to help the many others who may be suffering in silence.
We recently surveyed school staff about the impact of school counseling, with 86% saying it helped improve attendance, 73% saying it helped improve student behavior and 72% claiming that it has helped to improve the academic success of students.
School counseling is a non-stigmatizing and effective form of early intervention to reduce psychological distress. It has a positive effect on confidence, resilience, feelings of self-esteem, family relationships, friendships, school attendance and academic achievement. Government funding is urgently needed to provide more school counselors to offer life-changing support to young people in need.
Policy and Public Affairs Manager, British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy
I am a piano teacher, and as someone who has worked my whole life on the periphery of education, I see the ill effects of an exam-obsessed education system, especially at this time of year. Children are under continuous pressure to “pass” exams. This means not only taking public exams, but the accumulation of endless mock exams.
All of my teenage pupils have been negatively affected, either temporarily stopping what is a cherished lifelong hobby before their exams start, or dropping out of classes altogether, to have time to prepare for GCSEs/As -levels. Should we still be surprised at the massive increase in mental health problems among children?