Mental health struggles as a result of schools, colleges and uni are rising, especially since the pandemic has started. Platfform4yp created a survey for our young people to answer questions about mental health within schools, colleges and uni. 

A handful of young people have answered the survey and here are the results. 100% of the young people that answered the survey said they struggled with mental health and they all think that there is not enough support within schools, colleges and uni’s. 

When asked why they think this, their response was this!

Young Person 1 – “Schools only seem to care when multiple adults and mental health professionals contact them or when things get “out of hand”! Even when things get “out of hand” you still don’t get enough support, there have been multiple times where the school hasn’t known what to do and has just sat me in a room with a teacher! Many people in my school didn’t even know we had a school counsellor in our school!”

Young Person 2 – “School counselors and teachers never seem approachable so those who are struggling feel like they can’t get help. We know they’re there but we’re terrified of being judged or mocked or ridiculed like we are everywhere else and schools have a tendency not to take our problems seriously. not unless we’re about to kill ourselves.”

Young Person 3 – “Not taken seriously”

Young Person 4 – “Teachers are not trained in recognising or supporting pupils with mental health issues. Some teachers are great at supporting students with mental health as they have experienced themselves or have a good connection with specific pupils who they teach. However the majority of staff are overworked and rushed off their feet so are physically unable to support students without fear of losing teaching time and quality. The support systems are often unknown to pupils within the school. They are aware of basics like who their head of year is and their form tutor but beyond that it is unknown.”

Young Person 5 – “Pupils are normally sent to the well-being officer and then referred on again to someone outside of the school or ti the school counsellor. it’s not nearly enough.”

Platfform also asked, how do you think schools, colleges and uni’s should handle mental health, the answers we received were similar to each other. 

Young Person 1 – “I think most members of staff should be taught about the signs of mental health and how to support their students! I also think there should be assemblies or some sort of education on mental health for the students.”

Young Person 2 – “I think mental health problems are taught too late. The first time I heard about mental illnesses was year 7 and that’s when I realised what I’d been suffering with for the last two years. Some people went to the school counsellor for help and were just told that their issues didn’t exist and they were being dramatic, that they should just take a walk or go to sleep earlier as if that’s going to fix anything. They only focus on preventative measures but the prevention isn’t very good and it’s always way too late.”

Young Person 3 – “Take every concern seriously, small or large”

Young Person 4 – “Schools should educate pupils more on their mental health perhaps during PSE lessons. Not about conditions and facts but how they can look after their own mental health. Also, have trained staff to notice mental health issues and how to approach a conversation regarding them. For example a kid who refuses to take a pe hoodie off during normal lessons which would be against school rules should be looked into. A better culture about mental health should also be created. This could be established through creating a safe and non judgemental environment when any pupil could go to speak about their emotions and wellbeing. Increased provision of counselling services within schools would also be beneficial.”

Young Person 5 – “There needs to be more focus on early prevention. I never had an assembly on mental health until year 9 and for many of us, that’s too late. Mental health should be taken more seriously too – a student shouldn’t be punished for being unable to meet a deadline when they’re fighting themselves in their own head to even get out of bed. Compassion is key. Staff should do mental health awareness courses too so that they can potentially recognise early signs and check in with students about how they’re doing and then refer them to well-being for further help.”

We also asked, what do you think are the main causes for mental health within schools, colleges and unis?

Young Person 1 – “I think some of the main causes are stress, many teachers don’t understand that we get set homework and tests by other teachers (there was this one time where we had 6 pieces of course work all due in the same week! But I also think the students are to blame, things such as bullying and friendship groups can affect people’s mental health”

Young Person 2 – “The stress placed on students to achieve well. especially for “gifted” students who are pushed to their limits at school and at home and are left feeling like they’re never enough. students often encourage bullying for people being different whether that be personal interests, sexuality, gender or race and this alienates the students from the community and makes them feel othered.”

Young Person 3 – “Lack of support, a lot of stress”

Young Person 4 – “Unwelcoming and hostile environment. The lack of opportunities to speak about mental health in general conversation in the school/college/uni community. The pressure but on students to perform to a certain level or to do better or as good as their peers”

Young Person 5 – “Insane amounts of pressure. I was in top set for most things and we were never allowed to have a bad day – we had to be quiet, sit still and work until we collapsed to get the highest grades possible. A lack of support before any issues arise is also a large problem in schools because class sizes have become so large that there’s often little time to connect to your teachers one on one. More information should be made available at an earlier age/stage too”

Lastly, the young people wrote about what support could be put in place to reduce mental health struggles within schools, colleges and uni’s?

Young Person 1 – “Maybe more support that anyone can get (our school counselor has a waiting list) maybe during stressful times (for example end of year tests) have a relaxed/fun day to try and reduce stress? They need to educate students and teachers on mental health.”

Young Person 2 – “Active check ins to see how students are doing in like registration time or at the end of class to gauge how they are feeling. Not just say “how are you?” or “are you okay today?” because it’s easy for students to brush off how they feel. Something like “how are you coping this week?” “how have you handled the workload?” “how are you feeling about your lessons today?” They’re more open and allow students to elaborate. Teachers/ lecturers/ professors should also do this in private with students and should pay attention to student body language/ behaviour and be educated on the signs of mental health problems so that they can approach individuals who may need more help. Reduce the stress placed on students and make sure that they’re there to actually help them learn rather than brushing off information they’re struggling with as stuff they should know as the students feel like they’re falling behind and start comparing themselves to others.”

Young Person 3 – “Put less pressure on students surrounding grades.”

Young Person 4 – “Discourage the sharing of exam results and scores, so no one feels obligated to share theirs. To make mental health a normal topic of conversation within schools. Pupils and staff to be trained on the early signs of serious mental health issues.”

Young Person 5 – “Early prevention support groups where students can talk with teachers and professionals in a relaxed environment. an hour a week with someone you trust is all some students could need to help reduce their struggles. schools should also refrain from putting so much pressure on pupils to gain top academic grades because they’re just letters and letters shouldn’t control students’ lives or dictate their worth. staff should be trained to be able to have conversations about mental health in all its context.” 

Overall, from the answers received from the survey, it seems that schools play a big role in mental health within students. Young people are in schools up to 53% of the year so there should be better use of that time when focusing on pupils’ mental health.