Exam stress sees spike in calls by children to Childline services

Nathanael Williams

Charities urge the country to support children as Scotland see jump in stress calls during exams

CHILDREN IN SCOTLAND have increasingly been seeking the aid of children’s charities due to “excessive stress” during exam season according to charities.

An increase in the number of teenagers seeking help was recorded by the NSPCC between 2016 and this year with calls from girls more than doubling and calls from boys up four fold.

Scottish Labour used the figures as evidence of the lack of attention paid by the Scottish Government to mental health provision for young people in Scotland.

Charities urged a national effort by “all sections of society” to support young people including families as well as teachers to ensure school did not shoulder all of the pastoral responsibilities.

Joanna Barrett, acting national head of NSPCC Scotland, said: “Every year we hear from children who are struggling to cope with the pressure to succeed in exams. For some, this can feel so insurmountable that it causes crippling anxiety and stress, and, in some cases, contributes to mental health issues or even suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Counselling given by NSPCC Scotland to girls rose from 53 in 2015 and 2016 to 108 in 2016 and 2017.

“Exams are important but worrying about them can be counterproductive, leaving young people unable to prepare. It is vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period.”

Counselling given by NSPCC Scotland to girls rose from 53 in 2015 and 2016 to 108 in 2016 and 2017.

Boys statistically tend to call helplines less, which charities said had to be addressed in of itself but calls from them went from five in 2015 to 20 at the end of last year. Among those who called, the biggest jump was seen for 16 to 18-year-olds who have been preparing for National exams and Highers in Scotland.

Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour spokesperson for inequalities, said: “This is a deeply worrying report from the NSPCC. Exams can clearly be a stressful time for children and young people, and charities and the third sector do valuable work supporting them.

“Every year we hear from children who are struggling to cope with the pressure to succeed in exams.” Joanna Barrett

“While the SNP has obsessed about the constitution for a decade, it has failed to properly support child mental health. One in five children in Scotland face a lengthy wait for mental health treatment. Others who need it don’t get any help at all. Scottish Labour’s plans for access to a school-based counsellor in every secondary school would help ensure children get the support they need.”

The Scottish Government has emphasised its commissioning of a review looking at counselling and guidance services in schools for this year and its funding of the Managed Clinical Network which it hopes will be the nations first intergrated mental health strategy.

Overall the UK figures from Childline show 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress given in 2016 to 2017 which teenagers often citing the feeling of being unprepared and struggling with workloads and the social pressure of result expectations. It represented an increase of 11 per cent over the two year period.

The news additionally follows the official launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from the 8th to the 14th of May. According to the Scottish Association for Mental Health, figures show that last year, nearly 7,000 young people in Scotland didn’t get the help they need for mental health problems.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Childline founder and president, said: “I am very distressed that so many young people are turning to Childline because they have nobody else to confide in safely when they are desperately anxious. We need to recognise how stressful exams can be and reassure our young people and support them through these tough times, which I remember only too well in my life, and my children’s lives.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article the NSPCC in Scotland has a helpline for those to contact the organisation on  0808 800 5000.

Picture courtesy of YouTube

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