More than half of young Londoners aged 12 to 16 (51 per cent) feel sad or anxious at least once a week and three quarters (77 per cent) say school is one of their biggest causes of stress, a survey by Barnardo’s has found.
The survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the UK’s largest children’s charity Barnardo’s reveals what is troubling today’s children and how they can be better supported.
As Children’s Mental Health Week launches today (Monday, 5 February) the results show the overwhelming majority of 12 to 16-year-olds in London (73 per cent) think it would be helpful if they had a counsellor or another professional at their school to talk to when they’re feeling down and upset.
Some 77 per cent of those surveyed in London cited school one of their main causes of stress – higher than the UK average of 65 per cent – while 47 per cent worried about their future, 35 per cent cited problems at home and 33 per cent worried about their health.
Social media has been an issue for 12 per cent of young people in London who worried about getting enough ‘likes’ or responses on social media, while 11 per cent said they have been troubled by something they’d seen on social media.
The polling also found that messages about the importance of talking about their feelings are getting through to children. When asked who they would talk to if they felt sad or anxious, 35 per cent said teachers, 75 per cent said family members and 64 per cent said friends.
Isaac Harvey, 22, who has been supported by Barnardo’s and has also volunteered for the charity as a mentor, said: “I have a physical disability and I use a wheelchair to get around. During my life I’ve been through a lot of challenges. Luckily, over time I’ve been able to grow a positive mind-set and overcome things.
“I feel the government should definitely start teaching the teachers more about mental health, so they know the signs and understand what mental health involves. A lot of teachers don’t see the signs among their students. To be able to talk to your favourite teacher about these subjects would be great.”
Barnardo’s says schools have a key role to play as they can be stressful environments for children, especially around exam time. But they are also places where they can seek help from teachers and counsellors.
The polling results also show that children like to speak to a range of people when they are feeling troubled and call into question the Government’s Mental Health Green Paper proposal to train just one senior lead in each school about mental health. Barnardo’s says more needs to be done to make it easier for children to talk about their mental health at school.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
“It is deeply concerning that so many children in England are growing up feeling sad and anxious and these feelings are intensified as they get older.
“Although these can be normal emotions experienced while growing up, children need support to deal with the pressures of everyday life.
“We need to create a culture where everyone has a greater understanding of what keeps children mentally well and when professional help is needed.
“We want parents and carers to be confident in recognising if their children are unhappy and teachers and other professionals to be sufficiently trained, adequately resourced and available to support them.”
In 2016/2017 Barnardo’s provided specialised mental health and wellbeing support to 21,100 children, young people, parents and carers.
This included more than 14,500 children supported through our school-based programmes aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing. It also included 6,594 children, young people, parents and carers which the charity helped through its mental health services.