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Anxiety rife among young people left in exams limbo: counsellor


Concerns: Edith Bell

Concerns: Edith Bell

Concerns: Edith Bell

Students have been left dealing with mounting anxiety and depression over exam grades, it has been claimed.

The warning comes from Edith Bell, director of counselling at Family Works, which is responsible for the delivery of counselling in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland.

She said her team of counsellors are dealing with hundreds of pupils who could never have expected not sitting end-of-term exams.

"This has meant no real ending to 14 years of a school career," she said.

"For many the idea of predicted grades will add to uncertainty.

"Some pupils were really banking on the time after their mocks to study and improve their grades. Others were still working up to their full potential and those who worry at the best of times are feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.

"Uncertainty provokes anxiety and depression and anxiety is a very overwhelming and messy emotion, particularly acute because of the loss of safety and control over their lives."

Ms Bell said the last six weeks had turned students' lives upside down.

She added: "Social interaction is the lifeblood of young people's routines but that's gone for now.

"They may have some very unspoken fears. Their feelings are understandably up and down. Some of them are feeling exhausted, low, demotivated, panicked.

"Young people who were about to take exams are especially vulnerable and they need people in their lives who will be there to steady them. We need to talk and listen to them about their emotions. It does no harm to ask if they're okay. That helps them know they're not alone.

"Exams are important but they are not the last word on anyone's life."

She urged young people to make an appointment to talk to their school counsellor to discuss worries or feelings, adding: "They don't have to deal with this alone."

Belfast Telegraph