Sunday 17 November 2019

Children as young as four have mental health issues, poll finds

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Alison Kershaw

Children as young as four are suffering from mental health issues such as panic attacks, anxiety and depression, a poll has found.

Almost all teachers (98%) say they have come into contact with pupils who are experiencing mental health issues.

These youngsters were most likely to be teenagers, with 58% of teachers saying they had seen issues in 15 to 16-year-olds and 55% in 13 and 14-year-olds.

But nearly a fifth (18%) of those polled by the NASUWT teaching union ahead of its annual conference in Manchester said they had been in contact with four to seven-year-olds showing mental health issues, and over a third (35%) had seen problems in youngsters aged seven to 11.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates warned there is concern among teachers about a gap in the availability of experts and counselling to help children with mental health needs.

Nine in 10 (91%) said they had experienced a pupil of any age suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, while 79% were aware of a pupil suffering from depression and 64% knew of a youngster who was self-harming.

Around half (49%) were aware of children with eating disorders, and a similar proportion (47%) knew about a youngster with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The poll asked teachers about the impact of mental health issues on pupil behaviour, and 89% agreed that it led to an inability to concentrate in class, 85% said it meant youngsters struggled to fully participate in class, and 77% agreed that it led to a pupil being isolated from other students or problems in making friends.

Over four-fifths (84%) said the pressure of exams and testing was contributing to mental health issues, 71% said pressure to be good academically was having an impact, and 36% said bullying played a part.

In addition, 91% said family problems such as ill health or a break-up had an impact on mental health, while 72% said social media played a part.

PA Media

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