UK school children as young as nine years old have talked about suicide in class, a teachers’ survey has revealed
The survey also warned that mental health issues are at crisis point and are affecting younger and younger children.
The Telegraph reports: Four in five teachers said they have seen a rise in pupils experiencing mental health problems, according to a poll conducted by the National Education Union (NEU).
The survey of over 8,674 teachers and support staff found that 83 per cent saw a rise in the past two years. “Sats pressure and general expectations are taking their toll on more vulnerable pupils,” one teacher commented, adding: “We have nine-year-olds talking about suicide.”
Another said she had seen “much more anxiety” and self-harming among pupils, adding that there have been “three suicides in three years in my school alone.”
Some of those questioned said student mental health was at a “crisis point”, with others saying it was affecting “younger and younger children”.
The staff were also asked whether their workplace had the provision for supporting pupils with mental health issues.
Just under half (49 per cent) said they had a school counsellor, but the majority of teachers (59 per cent) said they had learning support assistants. 29 per cent reported having a school nurse, and 12 per cent said they had a mental health first aider.
Rosamund McNeil, the NEU’s assistant general secretary, said: “We are hearing from teachers and headteachers that social media is one of the triggers that is leading them to worry about mental health.
“Social media is part of the picture and young people being on screens for more of the time. At home children can be on screens quite a great deal, it means people don’t have a break from peer relations and bullying can be a factor.”
Ms McNeil said that over the past three to five years, spending time online has become a “significant feature” in children’s lives.
Asked what prevents them from fully supporting pupils with mental health issues, the most common reasons cited by teachers were workload and difficulties accessing support such as Educational Psychologists.
57 per cent of teachers blamed funding cuts, while 32 per cent said the “narrowing of the curriculum” was also a factor.
Research published last month suggests that more than one in 10 boys at primary school are being labelled as suffering from a mental disorder, amid growing concerns about their classroom behaviour.
An NHS report, which examines the factors which may increase the risk of mental illness, found young boys were twice as likely as girls the same age to suffer such problems.
Experts said that “difficult” behaviour in young children could be a sign of emotional distress that they struggled to talk about. Compulsory health education lessons, due to be introduced next year, will encourage children to limit their time on Facebook, smartphones and games consoles and spend more time outdoors with friends.