A trustee of teenage mental health charity Stem4 has warned that secondary teachers need to be better prepared for dealing with mental health issues among their pupils.
Last month, another mental health charity, MindFull, published findings of a survey of over 2,000 young people, of who one in five had exhibited signs of depression before they turned 16.
Moreover, the Children's Society's latest index of child wellbeing shows around ten per cent of eight-to-17 year olds score below the midpoint on this scale, with respondents' satisfaction with their lives declining as they enter early adolescence.
Now Stem4's Patricia Preece has told the Daily Express that failing to address this dilemma now will result in the UK facing even bigger, more expensive problems in future.
She said schools are reporting that more pupils are struggling to deal with stress, as they face pressure to achieve from an early age, as well as the compulsion to belong in a social media-driven age where image and appearance can be judged publically.
Ms Preece remarked: "These kids are very unhappy and it's painful to witness that.
"There isn't a simple solution because there isn't a simple cause. The important thing is to encourage everyone involved to talk so that the warning signs aren't missed."
A teacher of 40 years herself, Ms Preece said school staff, parents and pupils need to discuss mental health issues openly, in the same way as physical health is debated, comparing current reluctance to talk about it to the unwillingness schools once exhibited in admitting to having problems with bullying.
Having helped 30 schools with pastoral care over the past two years, Ms Preece feels some teachers do not receive enough instruction on how to fulfil the key mentoring role of form teacher, with many schools sidelining this to instead focus on academic performance targets.
She therefore advocates that more teacher training time be dedicated to pastoral care, as well as for schools to make mental health wellbeing a core curriculum subject.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels