Mental health support in schools is patchy and badly publicised, and pupils believe that it is not seen as a priority by schools, a major piece of research has shown, as experts warned of a "crisis" in children’s psychological wellbeing.
The large-scale study calls for schools to draw up "mental health action plans" and for Education Scotland to crack down on schools that do not have a minimum amount of counselling provision.
In a survey, some 42 per cent of young people who said they had experienced a mental health problem reported that their school, college, university or workplace did not provide a supportive environment to talk about their mental health.
The study of 1,500 people (most of whom were aged 12 to 17 and still at school) reveals that young people instead tended to seek other opportunities outside of their places of learning to talk about their mental health problems. These included going to youth clubs, voluntary organisations, sports clubs – and even heavy metal concerts.
Others said that mental health was "way down the list of priorities" at school or that it had never even been mentioned in personal and social education classes. Some felt that secondary school was now "all about how to pass exams", rather than learning how to be "healthy and happy".
'Stretched too thin'
Pupils complained that schools’ mental health services were not advertised enough or that they might have to wait months to see an educational psychologist, and that teachers were "stretched too thin" and lacked the resources to tackle mental health.
Terri Smith, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament, said young people’s mental health in Scotland was "at a crisis level".
"At the moment, we are failing our young people, and those experiencing mental health problems are being made to wait months and sometimes years for help," she added. "Many young people are being told that their mental health problems are a phase that they will grow out of, and just generally not being taken seriously."
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said that teachers’ mental health was also a worry, with "unsustainable workload" having a "huge impact".
This is an edited article from the 22 July edition of TESS. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TESS magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here