Self-harm has increased in almost half of schools, survey finds

And 79 per cent of schools have seen an increase in pupils' stress, anxiety and panic attacks

Adi Bloom

Teenage girl, slumped against a wall in despair

Incidents of self-harm among pupils have risen in almost half of all schools – including three-quarters of secondary schools – new research shows.

The survey of more than 1,100 school leaders also reveals that stress, anxiety and panic attacks among pupils have risen by 79 per cent in the last two years.

The State of Education survey, conducted by leadership organisation The Key, shows that concerns over a range of mental health issues have risen considerably in the last two years.

Three-quarters – 75 per cent – of secondary leaders noted a rise in incidents of self-harm among pupils. More than one in three primary leaders – 37 per cent – had also noticed a similar rise in self-harming, bringing the cross-sector average to 45 per cent.

'One in every classroom'

A 14-year-old pupil told staff at The Key: “In my year group, I think there could be as many as one person in every class that might be self-harming, but we wouldn’t necessarily try to talk to them or raise this with a teacher.”

The increase in incidents of self-harm was particularly noticeable in coastal areas, where 57 per cent of school leaders witnessed an increase.

Three out of five – 60 per cent – of school leaders surveyed also said that they had seen an increase in pupil depression during the two-year.

And school leaders across both sectors said that pupils were fearful about the future. This had increased by 45 per cent at primary level, and 59 per cent among secondary pupils. In particular, 76 per cent of primary leaders and 78 per cent of secondary leaders said that they had observed an increase in fear of academic failure.

'Wide range of issues'

Pupils’ worries about drugs, sexting and domestic violence had also increased over the last two years.

A headteacher from a West Midlands secondary told The Key: “We’re seeing students presenting a wide range of issues, and we are having to increase our pastoral support. Early help outside of school is at best inadequate.”

In response to calls for more support for pupil mental health, the government recently pledged £200,000 towards mental health first-aid training for secondary teachers, to help them identify and deal with issues like anxiety, self-harm and depression.

But The Key’s research suggests that this may come too late: 55 per cent of primary leaders said that they had seen an increase in depression among pupils over the last two years.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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