The wellbeing and mental health of our children and young people are subjects now at the top of our national news agenda, thanks to the publication of two major reports, plus the prosecution and conviction of a teenager who admitted stabbing a teacher to death in front of his class at school. The lead item on Newsnight last night was on this topic. Professor Tanya Byron’s contribution to the discussion was excellent – please try to watch the discussion on the BBC iPlayer if you missed it.
On The Edge – ChildLine Spotlight: on Suicide
House of Commons – Health Committee
Children’s and adolescents’ mental health and CAMHS
Third Report of Session 2014 – 15
Our own thoughts are summed up in our letter to the Guardian, published today (final letter of several on this subject):
More children talking to ChildLine about suicide
‘More children feeling suicidal then ever before,’ ChildLine figures show
More children are considering suicide than ever before, according to ChildLine, who had more than 34,500 calls in a year from under-18s talking about killing themselves.
ChildLine report: increase in suicidal feelings in young people
These reports continuously refer to the importance of early intervention and the need for more investment in preventative services, something that we’ve always believed would be “value for money”.
Our education policy has not kept up with changing times, and with new threats to our young peoples’ wellbeing. The world wide web has been an essential part of many of our lives for well over a decade. Young people communicate and socialise in different and often isolated ways – sometimes receiving threats and abuse. Many do not have the confidence, language or skills to talk about these issues with trusted adults such as teachers, mentors, support staff and parents.
We have largely failed to recognise the contribution of our education systems to the poor mental health that at least 20% of our young people endure. As Prof Tanya Byron said, “An education system which is narrowly built around targets and testing” is no longer (nor ever has been) fit for purpose.
Changes are needed. An approach to learning and life which places the wellbeing of our young people at the heart of policy is long overdue.
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