Four in five young people are too embarrassed to seek help for their mental health, a new report has found.
The results from an Integrated Education Fund (IEF) conference showed 79% of young people were too embarrassed or afraid to get support for their emotional well-being or mental health.
The report also highlighted that among some of the biggest issues impacting on young people’s mental health were exams, including the Transfer Test, and homework.
The findings came from a day-long conference at Drumlins Integrated Primary School in Ballynahinch on World Mental Health Day in October.
When asked the question ‘What are kids’ worries that cause tricky feelings to get stuck inside?’ a sample group of P6 and P7 children identified the transfer test as by far their greatest source of stress, with homework also a factor.
Social media, self-image and bullying came out as strong contributors, according to post-primary students, as well as complex issues related to home life.
Another stark finding from the report was that three in four post-primary student groups stressed self-harm and suicide come be the outcome of mental health deterioration if left unchecked.
One leader shared how evidence of self-harm was starting to become apparent among primary age children.
When asked who they would approach first if they needed support with difficult emotions just 1% said they would approach a teacher or tutor.
Paul Collins, campaign fundraiser with the IEF, says today’s event will help form a plan to address the issues impacting on the mental health of young people, giving them the support they need.
He said: “It’s befitting that we release the insightful results of our ‘Listening...A Mental Health Conference’ on 20th January, what is called ‘Blue Monday’ and conceived as the most depressing day of the year, but for us this is about waking up to the fact that our young people are, often, struggling with many aspects of life including social, home and education.
“We want to highlight that mental health problems are prevalent but more importantly outline initiatives that can be put in place in an educational environment to support pupils.”
Grace Doherty, a P7 student at Drumlins Integrated Primary School, Ballynahinch, said: “The conference made me realise how important our mental health actually is and how you need to talk to your friends and family when you are feeling down.
“It also made me understand how big a problem mental health is for young people in Northern Ireland and how there is not enough help for them. As a member of the Students Council in Drumlins IPS I know that even children in primary schools can suffer with their mental health too.”
Freya Collins (11), from Lagan Integrated College added: “I believe that if teachers are trained to help poor mental health and parents are supported, we can work together to help improve wellbeing among many young people.”
Results from the consultation event, which involved 154 children from 24 integrated primary and secondary schools across Northern Ireland, will be unveiled at an event at Stormont’s Parliament Buildings today.
Funded through the National Lottery Community Fund, the event will launch 10 IEF priorities that emerged from the conference, including training for all teachers in mental health and emotional well-being, student mental health ambassadors and resources to set up relaxation rooms for students.