Mental health issues affecting primary aged children as young as 4?

A recent survey by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has shown a so-called ‘mental health upsurge’ among pupils. The survey, completed by 2,000 teachers, had some startling outcomes. 98% of those surveyed believed they had been in contact with a pupil/pupils that had mental health issues, with 91% knowing of pupils dealing with anxiety or panic attacks and 79% knowing of pupils dealing with depression. The percentages for other mental health issues such as self harm, obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders were also worryingly high.

However it is not just the range of mental health problems that are concerning, but the age of the children in which the symptoms are being spotted. Mental health issues were being observed in children aged under 4 by 7.2% of the survey group, those aged 4-7 by 18% of the survey group and in pupils aged 7-11 by 35% of the teachers.

Of course the size of this survey in relation to the number of schools in the UK, over 24,000 of them, is very small. However if further surveys were carried out across the UK and these statistics were replicated, then it is possible that these mental health issues could be affecting hundreds of thousands of pupils nationwide, and if not dealt with during education these issues could be carried with them in to later life.

The General Secretary for NASUWT, Chris Keates, commented on the findings of the survey stating that “Teachers and school leaders take very seriously their duty of care to their students and it is clear there is a great deal of concern in the profession about the gulf in the availability of expert physiological support and counselling for pupils with mental health needs.”.

There has been clear concerns that schools and teachers cannot keep up with the upsurge of mental health issues within the education system and so earlier this year as part of the current government, the mental health service reform is investing £1.4 billion for young peoples mental health including “new support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.”.

It is important all throughout your education, even through university, to look after your mental health. You can take smaller steps such as making sure you eat a balanced diet, sleep well, try keeping on top of your work to avoid additional stress and opening up to a friend or family member about how you feel. If you feel you need additional support you can seek professional help from Anglia Ruskins counselling and wellbeing support. Outside of university you can talk to a GP as well as the many mental health services in Cambridge and Chelmsford including the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.

By Hollie Luck

14th April 2017

Imaged Credit: Elle Haywood