'Third of secondary pupils have mental health issues'

Action for Children says the number of children seeking mental health support has risen by 52 per cent in three years

Caroline Henshaw

Schools are struggling to cope with the number of children presenting with mental health issues, a charity has warned

A third of older secondary school pupils are suffering from anxiety, depression or emotional wellbeing issues, according to new research that adds to growing concerns about pupils’ mental health.

The study of 5,000 15- to 18-year-olds by the charity Action for Children found that 33 per cent felt depressed, had problems sleeping, struggled to shake of negative feelings and found it hard to focus on a regular basis.

The charity has launched an early intervention action programme after the number of children coming to it with mental problems rose by more than half over the past three years.

“There were scary periods where I was getting very anxious and not doing as well as I usually do at school as my mind was elsewhere,” said Rowan, 15, from Whitchurch High School in Cardiff.

“I tried to keep how I was feeling to myself and deal with the problems alone, but I didn’t know what to do. My friends noticed a difference in me and kept asking me what was wrong.”

Demand for mental health support

The survey results echo a slew of recent research that has highlighted how cash-strapped schools are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for mental health services.

MPs were moved to tears last week when 17-year-old Elodie from Nottinghamshire stood up at an event in Parliament and described how cuts to school mental health services nearly ruined her life.

Action for Children’s figures also come days after the National Audit Office warned that government estimates may dramatically underestimate the scale of the childhood mental health crisis in the UK.

The government has committed £1.4 billion to ensure that 35 per cent of children and young people in need are treated for mental health issues by 2020-21, equivalent to helping an additional 70,000 people a year.

But a new government survey, due to be published later this year, is widely expected to find a far higher demand for services than previously expected, making it even harder to meet this target.

Recent analysis by the Education Policy Institute thinktank estimates that more than 55,000 children were rejected for treatment last year alone, mainly because their conditions were not deemed serious enough.



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Caroline Henshaw

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