Schools are struggling to access adequate support to deal with an upsurge of mental health issues in children and young people, a survey by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, has found.
Teachers say they are dealing with pupils experiencing a wide variety of mental health disorders including anxiety, panic attacks, depression and eating disorders, but that accessing expert external psychological support for students is becoming increasingly difficult.
The survey, which received over 2,000 responses from teachers and school leaders, found:
- 98% said there were pupils they come into contact with who they believe are experiencing mental health problems;
- 91% knew of pupils experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, 79% depression, 64% self-harm, 49% eating disorders and 47% OCD;
- 58% had experienced these behaviours in pupils aged between 15 and 16, 35% in pupils aged between 7 and 11 and 18% in pupils aged between 4 and 7. 2% had experienced them in children aged under 4;
- 89% said that mental health issues meant that pupils had an inability to concentrate in class, 85% said they were unable to participate fully in lessons or activities and 77% said they had problems making friends;
- 84% believe that the pressure of the exam/testing system is creating or contributing to mental health issues in their pupils and 71% cited the pressure to be academically successful;
- Away from school, 91% believe that family problems are creating or contributing to pupils’ mental health issues. 72% cited social media pressures and 55% the impact of poverty or financial worries in their family;
- While over half (54%) said they were fairly confident they would recognise the signs of a possible mental health problem in their pupils, less than a quarter (24%) said they were very or fairly confident they would be able to get timely support from expert services such as CAMHS (children and adolescent mental health services);
- Nearly half (46%) say they have never received any training on children’s mental health and recognising the signs of possible mental health problems in pupils.
“It is clear that teachers and school leaders are seeing many more children and young people who are exhibiting the signs of serious mental distress.
“Teachers and school leaders take very seriously their duty of care to their students and it is clear there is a great deal of concern in the profession about the gulf in the availability of expert physiological support and counselling for pupils with mental health needs.
“The Prime Minister earlier this year pledged to improve mental health support for pupils. However, schools cannot address this issue alone and cuts to budgets and services in local authorities, health and education have all taken a heavy toll on the support available, as evidenced by the concerns expressed by teachers about the difficulties and delays in accessing CAMHS support.
“The Prime Minister must make good on her pledge and urgently act to improve expert mental health provision for children and young people as it is evident that without timely, high-quality expert support children and young people’s wellbeing is being seriously compromised, along with their ability to focus on their learning and achieve their potential.
“The repercussions for these pupils’ health and future life chances will be long-lasting if the Government fails to get to grips with this issue now.”