Concern for student’s mental health is on the rise, with a recent NHS report finding that 14.4% of primary school aged students are suffering from poor mental health, while an even more worrying 17.6% of secondary school aged pupils are likely to struggle with their mental health.
Greenbank Primary School Assistant Head Teacher Sinead Lee believes that the problem is far from a new one: “I believe it has always been there but is just now being recognised more. Young people feel they can speak about it so more young people are being diagnosed.”
While many believe that the pandemic has exacerbated poor mental health in students, Sinead believes the issue may run deeper than that: “It is hard to say if the mental health issues were there prior to the pandemic and became more apparent during it or whether the pandemic caused issues in some children. There are still anxieties, but the pandemic has meant things are talked about more and young people are finding ways to deal with their mental health.”
Thankfully, schools are now beginning to teach children how to look after their mental health: “It is embedded within our curriculum. We follow Jigsaw for PSHEE, which has set lessons in each year group on mental health, and we have a mental health action plan and a mental health team made up of students and staff from all the age groups.”
At Greenbank, there are lots of measures in place to help tackle poor mental health among students: “There are posters around school of who to talk to within school, children know who the wellbeing team are, we liaise with parents and external agencies when necessary. We have workshops and assemblies, and we do mindfulness minutes projects. Each class does activities to support with mental health which are age suitable. There are emoji boards in each class to show how students are feeling. We provide a listening ear where children can put in their worries, as well as mindful colouring, a chill out zone which children can remove themselves to if they are feeling overwhelmed, wellbeing group linked to exams preparation in autumn term, and yoga. All staff are trained to spot mental health concerns and know who to feed back to and we have a bereavement leader.”
While the situation is improving, Sinead believes there are still measures which need to be taken: “We need to invest to reduce waiting lists to get further support from external agencies, as if issues are not dealt with in childhood it can lead to adult mental health issues. We should also continue with work to teach children awareness of mental health and guide them in learning about self-regulating their emotions so that they have strategies to use in later in life.
“All staff working in schools should be regularly trained in mental health support and resources should be provided to support in schools.”
To talk to someone about mental health issues, contact Place2be.org.uk