Northern Ireland news

Pupils 'too embarrassed' to turn to teachers for help with mental health

A survey has revealed the extent of mental health issues faced by primary and post-primary pupils in the North.
Paul Ainsworth

A majority of school-age young people in the North are "too embarrassed" to seek help with mental health issues, prompting some pupils as young as primary age to self-harm.

Data from the 'Listening … A Mental Health Conference Report' was gathered from young people here on World Mental Health Day last October, and is being revealed at Stormont today by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF).

The findings, based on 154 pupils of both primary and secondary school age, show that 79 percent of young people are embarrassed or afraid to seek support for their emotional well-being or mental health.

The pupils, from 24 schools, cited academic stressors such as the Transfer Test and homework as among the main factors affecting their well-being.

Other worries stemmed from social media, bullying, and self-image issues, and the event at Stormont will hear how evidence found in the research, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, shows some pupils of primary school age have self-harmed.

Just one percent of pupils surveyed said they would approach a teacher with mental health problems, with a majority choosing instead to talk with friends. However, 80 percent of pupils said schools should help children identify key support staff to turn to.

The Stormont event will see the launch of a new initiative encouraging schools to consider 10 'priorities' for dealing with pupils' mental health. They include teaching about the issue in the curriculum, and establishing "relaxation rooms" for pupils.

IEF fundraiser Paul Collins said: "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."


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