Last week, Dan Whitworth published an article on BBC Newsbeat revealing that two major teaching unions claim that schools are now struggling to cope with the amount of students self-harming. I couldn’t ignore the fact that emotional wellbeing is currently prominently featured in the media, especially when the article showed NHS figures of a staggering 20% rise in 10-19-years-olds admitted to hospital due to self-harming injuries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the last year.
I really can’t believe that in the 21st Century when we have information literally at our fingertips, the benefit of educating young people about emotional health can possibly be overlooked. What’s worse is that we have now reached a point in which pupils are suffering from severe psychological distress due to neglect in this area. Schools have lost out on emotional wellbeing workers but I don’t understand how removing such workers can possibly go unnoticed when we are in an age where bullying has spread from outside the classroom and into people’s homes via phones, laptops and tablets.
Bullying aside, young girls in particular are busy battling other demons; their own self-confidence and body-image. These are huge issues for young girls. I finished school less than 10 years ago and even then I recall seeing many girls suffering from self-doubt and anxiety problems derived from lack of self-esteem. This is distressing to know as an adult but was equally as upsetting as a teenager because feelings like that are often contagious at an age where your mind is so easily influenced.
Outside of teachers and parents, there wasn’t a lot of emotional support available at this time. Some may argue that teachers are there to monitor their pupils, therefore they have a responsibility over emotional wellbeing in students. Although I agree to some extent, I would add that teachers are currently overworking as it is without taking on the extra role of emotionally supporting every student. It’s generally agreed that they have a duty to intervene with bullying at school but the strain of looking after the mindset of all pupils would certainly overwhelm most and it is unrealistic to expect this from teachers. I also understand that lots of schools offer counselling, this is an excellent support service and I’m glad that the government and schools alike recognise the need to have this in place.
All of this just brings so many questions to my mind, why do we have to wait until the child needs counselling? Why can’t we coach them on managing their own emotional wellbeing BEFORE it progresses into a mental health issue? Does anyone really think this issue is going to just go away? Why don’t schools have someone external coming in to help students with this? Why are we wasting time investigating the reasons students are self-harming instead of ensuring they never reach that point?
My proposition is clear; coach young students on how to stay emotionally healthy while they are in a position to benefit from the coaching, before issues progress, before it’s too late. Parents and teachers are clearly worrying more about the emotional wellbeing of their children/students and what they really need is to feel reassured that someone is going to take action and tackle this issue, so I for one am going to try!