SToRMS believes that more can be done to promote mental health and emotional resilience in young people during their time in education.
Working in a school setting enables the message to be delivered to all children but the school setting itself can present a barrier to that message getting through. SToRMS pilots innovative ways to engage pupils to identify when their mate is in distress and optimise peer support.
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Life can be challenging and may include many difficult or stressful situations. The ability to deal with these is fundamental to a person’s wellbeing. The education system is well placed to support parents and society in fostering high self esteem and emotional resilience in young people. However, teaching qualifications do not routinely provide the necessary grounding in mental wellbeing. This leaves some teachers feeling ill-equipped to deal with pupils experiencing difficulties. Other pressures generated by national targets and funding constraints can make the necessary school-wide approach to this support particularly problematic.
We are told that our times at school, or at university, are the “best days of our lives” but they may in fact present additional stresses at a point where other significant life changes are being encountered. The right support during these times is crucial to future wellbeing.
Young people in the UK today are contending with many challenges, some of which are new to their generation or at least heightened by today’s world, through:
- Pressures from social media
- An increased emphasis on academic achievement irrespective of ability or aspiration
- Pressures created by an overriding culture of competition
Leading charity Young Minds state that “many thousands of children and young people are isolated, unhappy, have eating disorders and self-harm; some tragically take their own lives”
The Mental Health Foundation highlight the recent increases in young children being admitted to A&E with eating disorders or as a result of self harm and one of its current projects is to pilot a programme with teenagers to build resilience and peer support in schools.
Locally, Sheffield Childrens and Adolescent Mental Health services have found that “12% of Sheffield secondary pupils say they feel very sad or depressed most days”. This is a very worrying statistic and reflects the national picture set out in The Good Childhood Report 2015, part of the ongoing research undertaken by The Childrens’ Society and the University of York into childrens’ wellbeing, which identified the need to consider well-being in schools alongside educational attainment.
Without the tools to weather the SToRMS they face in their everyday lives, many young people may find themselves overwhelmed and feeling isolated, alone or hopeless. Without help, there is a risk that some of these young people may attempt to take their own life.
SToRMS believes that building emotional resilience and making mental health a priority in the education system is a necessity. We are not alone in this belief.
Until mental health awareness becomes a compulsory part of every child’s education, SToRMS aims to work with local schools to support this agenda by promoting effective peer support and funding age appropriate specialist suicide prevention input. SToRMS intends to provide this necessary education consistently and to a high standard, from infant school through to university.