It is time to talk about young people’s mental health.

Children’s Mental Health

Week 8 – 15th February 2016

The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week this year is ‘building resilience’ and teaching children to ‘bounce forward’ from life’s challenges.

The Facts.

  • One fifth of children have experienced a mental health problem before the age of 11.
  • 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class.
  • There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm.
  • Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.
  • More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
  • Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
    Over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
  • 72% of children in care have behavioural or emotional problems – these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
  • 95% of imprisoned young offenders have a mental health disorder. Many of them are struggling with more than one disorder.
  • The number of young people aged 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s.
  • The proportion of young people aged 15-16 with a conduct disorder more than doubled between 1974 and 1999.

Whose job is it anyway?

“Teachers are not counsellors, and sometimes schools need professional support to make sure that problems in childhood do not spiral into bigger mental health problems later in life.”Catherine Roche.  The chief executive of the mental health charity Place2Be.

I think I agree in the most part, teachers are not trained counsellors and there should be boundaries between the different roles.  What I do not understand is why schools are not stuffed full of counsellors?  Why is it so difficult for young people to access mental health services?  Why is it so difficult for teachers to directly refer into these projects?  Why do more schools not have full-time counselling services available?  I know it would be costly, but it might be an excellent use of pupil premium money to support the most disadvantaged.  Our primary task has to be the emotional and intellectual development of young people, so we have a moral duty to provide mental health services for staff and students.  There needs to be a whole school commitment to improving mental health and wellbeing.  Emotional health has to be everyone’s business.


On the other hand, I also think teachers have an essential role to play with young people’s mental health in developing resilience, mental health awareness, early intervention and prevention programmes.  Whilst I am not suggesting we pop on our white coats and ask students to recline on a couch, I do feel there are counselling aspects to a teaching and learning relationship.

More must be done in initial teacher training and on-going CPD to help teachers develop a language of mental health.  We need to have the language to describe our feelings and the ability to notice when things are not right.

We know our students well; we observe their behaviour and interactions.  We see them everyday for extended period of time each day, I spend more time with some of my own tutor group than my own family.  The language we use, the reliability of our routines, the questions we ask, the way we re-frame the problems presented, the unconditional positive regard are essential ingredients in developing a healthy mind.  Our primary task is to offer some sense of containment, of being held in mind to aid future emotional growth.


I think we need to make time to talk more about mental health.