By Chelsey Ward
SECONDARY schools across the UK are being urged to improve mental health support policies as figures show at least 90 per cent of teenagers who commit suicide have some type of mental illness.
Research shows half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by the age of 18.
This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech last month at the Charity Commission where she emphasised the importance of transforming attitudes on mental health, with specific focus on children and young people.
May said: “If you struggle with mental health problems there isn’t enough help for you.”
She announced that every secondary school will be offered mental health training – which will teach staff how to identify symptoms and help pupils who may be developing mental health issues.
Balbir Sundar, 40, learning manager at a secondary school, said: “The school has been holding assemblies, discussing mental health and highlighting ways in which we can help and support students, as well as what they could do to help each other.
“It’s such a positive thing and I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to let students know that we can support them, and that they aren’t alone. We are putting students’ mental health first, it’s crucial and one of our priorities.”
May is also working on strengthening links between schools and NHS specialist staff.
Janet Witing, 83, a former mental health nurse, said: “It is an issue that doesn’t get the attention it needs to, when I was working in the department things were very different and it wasn’t as taboo.
“I feel there is such a bad ideology that has been portrayed to the younger generations, when they’re the ones we should be educating the most.”
The charity PAPYRUS aims to prevent young people committing suicide. It runs a national helpline, HOPELineUK, including text and email services, staffed by a team of mental health professionals who provide practical help and advice to vulnerable young people and to those concerned about any young person who may be at risk of suicide. PAPYRUS also delivers talks and awareness-raising sessions in schools, colleges, universities, community groups, prisons and other networks. These sessions are aimed at young people at risk and those who care for or work with them to help reduce the stigma surrounding suicide and encourage young people to be suicide-safe.