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New survey shows 50% of school children feel sad or anxious

It's Children's Mental Health Week and a survey by Barnardo's has revealed what is troubling young people

Posted by Lucinda Reid | February 05, 2018 | Health & wellbeing

Almost half of children aged from 12 to 16 in England feel sad or anxious at least once a week with worries about their future and school their biggest concerns, a survey by Barnardo’s has found.

By the age of 16, seven in ten (70%) report feeling sad or anxious at least once a week with nearly a quarter (22%) having negative feelings as much as once a day. Nearly half of 12 year olds in England (48%) surveyed also felt this way at least once a week, with only two per cent in this age group saying they never had.

The survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the UK’s largest children’s charity Barnardo’s reveals what is troubling today’s children and how they can be better supported. As Children’s Mental Health Week launches today the results show the overwhelming majority of 12 to 16 year olds in England (75%) think it would be helpful if they had a counsellor or another professional at their school to talk to when they’re feeling down and upset.

They cited the main causes of stress as being school for 65%, their future for 42%, problems at home for 31%, being bullied for 25% (not including online) and their weight for 26%. By the age of 16, stress at school was a worry for 83% of children in England and 80% were worrying about their future.

Social media has been an issue for 11% who worried about getting enough ‘likes’ or responses on social media, while 15% said they have been troubled by something they’d seen on social media. The polling also found that messages about the importance of talking about their feelings are getting through to children. When asked who they would talk to if they felt sad or anxious 38% said teachers, 71% said family members, 63% said friends.

Barnardo’s says schools have a key role to play as they can be stressful environments for children, especially around exam time. But they are also places where they can seek help from teachers and counsellors.

The polling results also show that children like to speak to a range of people when they are feeling troubled and call into question the Government’s Mental Health Green Paper proposal to train just one senior lead in each school about mental health. Barnardo’s says more needs to be done to make it easier for children to talk about their mental health at school.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said: “It is deeply concerning that so many children in England are growing up feeling sad and anxious and these feelings are intensified as they get older.Although these can be normal emotions experienced while growing up, children need support to deal with the pressures of everyday life.”

“We need to create a culture where everyone has a greater understanding of what keeps children mentally well and when professional help is needed,” continued Javed. “We want parents and carers to be confident in recognising if their children are unhappy and teachers and other professionals to be sufficiently trained, adequately resourced and available to support them.”

In 2016/2017 Barnardo’s provided specialised mental health and wellbeing support to 21,100 children, young people, parents and carers. This included more than 14,500 children supported through our school-based programmes aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing. It also included 6,594 children, young people, parents and carers which the charity helped through its mental health services.

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