News ID: 251432
Published: 0528 GMT April 15, 2019

Anger over failure to curb mental health crisis in Scottish schools

Anger over failure to curb mental health crisis in Scottish schools
heraldscotland.com

Scottish ministers are failing to do enough to tackle the growing mental health crisis in schools, campaigners have warned.

Leading charities said the Scottish government was too focused on the treatment of pupils once they had developed issues such as anxiety and depression, heraldscotland.com reported.

Instead, they want a greater focus on teaching all pupils the skills they need to cope with stress.

The campaign has been backed by Frances Beck, a teacher from Ayrshire who lost her son Conor to suicide last year, aged just 24.

Conor was bullied at school and his mother told The Herald more could have been done to develop his mental resilience.

Since 2015 there has been a 20 percent rise in the number of Scottish pupils being referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services.

Research last year also revealed teachers lack the training and confidence to help address mental health concerns with their pupils.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently announced £60 million funding to provide mental health counsellors in every secondary school as well as extra 250 school nurses.

The Scottish government has also agreed to the recommendations of a wider review of school personal and social education (PSE) which will see better training of teachers.

However, the Mental Health Foundation Scotland charity argued the measures do not go far enough.

Toni Giugliano, the foundation's policy manager, said: "Counsellors should be seen as part of a much wider package of support. The PSE review was an opportunity to put personal development, self-care, life skills and emotional intelligence at the heart of the school curriculum and it has failed to do so.

Giugliano said PSE lessons were an ideal platform to tackle issues such as body image, social media, self-esteem, academic pressure and relationships while giving pupils practical tips on how to manage their emotions.

He added: "Right now there’s a gap in Scotland’s education system and more support is needed from central and local government to ensure delivery is consistent across the country. Unless we put more emphasis on this we'll continue to see more pupils in crisis and distress."

Kirsten Hogg, head of policy for the Barnado's Scotland charity, said an "opportunity had been missed" with health and mental wellbeing of pupils still the ‘poor relation’ to literacy and numeracy.

She said: "The review flagged up that the delivery of PSE is simply not good enough and pupils are not receiving a consistent standard of education when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

“As part of the review the Scottish government has committed to investing more resources in school-based counselling. Counselling does have a role to play within education, but only in the context of a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing.

“The focus on counselling as the silver bullet fails to address some of the root causes behind young people’s poor mental health and runs the risk of medicalizing their experiences."

A Scottish government spokesman said the issue of child and adolescent mental health was a priority for ministers.

He said: "Local authorities and schools use a range of approaches and resources to support children and young people with their mental and emotional wellbeing, in line with local needs and circumstances.

"PSE is a key component of the curriculum and is critical to giving young people the knowledge, skills and resilience to navigate the various stages of their lives and reach their full potential.

"The recommendations in our review will ensure a high standard of learning and support in mental, physical and emotional wellbeing and will give school staff and pupils greater access to mental health support."

It’s estimated that up to 20 percent of teenagers experience mental health conditions yet these often go undiagnosed.

In addition to common mental health problems like anxiety disorders and mood disorders, they can experience feelings of anger, frustration and irritability with rapid changes in moods.

The more risk factors teenagers are exposed to the more likely they are to develop a mental health problem. These include poverty and inequality, living conditions, violence and bullying.

The teenage years are also a fundamental time for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits that are important for good mental health.

These include learning to understand and manage emotions, learning how to respond to difficult situations, regular exercise, good sleep and developing coping techniques, problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

 

   
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