Northamptonshire school staff tell of how they help surge in young people coping with poor mental health
The pressures of modern-day life are leaving some children and teenagers feeling overwhelmed and leading to a sharp rise in the number seeking help for mental health issues.
In 2017/18 Childline delivered 21,297 counselling sessions to young people trying to deal with feelings of anxiety – almost double that of two years ago, it was revealed this month.
At least 88 per cent of the support provided by Childline for this issue was given to girls, reinforcing how they are struggling to cope with growing up in the UK.
Now teachers are becoming qualified as mental health first aiders to deal with children and teenagers feeling anxious for reasons including bullying and cyber-bullying, eating problems, relationship problems and issues at school with homework and exams.
At Northampton International Academy, teacher Sarah Fuller also specialises in student leadership, pupil wellbeing and mental health.
Non-teaching adults work to support pupils with worries and anxieties, while lunch clubs provide anxious pupils a quiet space away from the busy lunch areas.
Sarah said: "Things have changed over the last 15 years, I feel a greater understanding of individual needs are now recognised.
"Mental health is openly discussed in school and with pupils at a younger age so they are more open to talk about difficulties they may be having.
"The media and TV adverts are helping make the subject less of a taboo, although there are lots of people who still use inappropriate terms and words in everyday language (not in school), challenging this still needs to continue.”
This month Childline ‘The Courage to Talk’ details how in 2017/18 Childline delivered 106,037 counselling sessions to young people experiencing problems with their mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
This is a five per cent increase on the previous year and more than a third of the total number of counselling sessions provided online and over the phone.
She added: "Along with pupils being able to speak out about difficulties, teachers and adults in schools are much more understanding and supportive and will quickly accommodate a pupil who is finding the noise or situation difficult.
"I think teachers are much more flexible in how they treat pupils as individuals.
"Referrals to additional support are put in place where needed, however a lack of funding often means this process can take time."
Outreach worker Zoe Dawson is also trained in mental health first aid.
She has worked at the Prince William School in Oundle for nine years alongside its teachers to gain a better understanding of children and their needs.
She said: "Within the HUB we are very fortunate to have recently had a room added on to our main classroom.
"This is the quiet room and is for students to come to if they need time out, it's their safe place.
"Within the quiet room, we have dimmed lighting, comfy chairs, weighted blankets, fiddly toys, colouring books, various arts and crafts, drawing and talking table and a motivational board where the students can put quotes on, which help them get through the day.
"We also offer one-to-one sessions where we work with the students on programmes such as building resilience, self-harming, anxiety, friendship problems.
"Within our main room we have music playing in the background all day - we find this helps the students as a lot of students can not cope with the quietness of the classroom and therefore leads to high-stress levels and they not then coping and not being able to focus on the work being asked of them."
Two years ago Zoe took on an assistant, Tracey, after the workload was increasing and now the school has 88 students using The HUB for various levels of support.