Mental health struggles as a result of schools, colleges and uni are rising, especially since the pandemic has started. Platfform4yp created a survey for our young people to answer questions about mental health within schools, colleges and uni. 

A handful of young people have answered the survey and here are the results. 100% of the young people that answered the survey said they struggled with mental health and they all think that there is not enough support within schools, colleges and uni’s. 

When asked why they think this, their response was this!

Young person 6 – “The teachers and staff think that we are just faking it and we want attention.”

Young person 7 – “Too many pupils, not enough staff.”

Young person 8 – “Lots of people are really uneducated about these things. Leading them to think that they are lazy or not trying hard enough. And when it is talked about it’s like a taboo subject. It will last 10 mins and I will never talk about it again.”

Young person 9 – “Between stigma to seek help, lack of knowledge that support exists – both in the varying types of help and where to get it, and the heavy handed and “one size fits all” approaches and techniques used when support is actually given leads young people not to get the support they need. By instead just dumping on them the latest techniques out of psychology weekly rather than working with them to find out what works best for their situation. Plus the lack of training in how to deal with and acceptance of neuro-diverse people and how it manifests in different people is also a low point.”

Young person 10 – “Schools don’t care enough until it’s too late.”

Young person 11 – “Mental health, and more importantly grounding techniques and stress management, isn’t taught in most schools. There is minimal support for kids that are already struggling (such as counsellors) but a lot of the damage could be reduced by prevention education.”

Young person 12 – “Mental health isn’t taught enough, not everyone is made aware of the support they can get, and school support is often limited.”

Platfform also asked, how do you think schools, colleges and uni’s should handle mental health, the answers we received were similar to each other. 

Young person 6 – “Better, they should have more talks about it and get speakers in.”

Young person 7 – “More staff, less pupils.” 

Young person 8 – “There should be more lessons on jt. Actually good advice that would help kids struggling. They should make it not a taboo subject and talk more about different kinds of mental illness and how to help their own mental health. School is stressful so they need to give people tools to help fight it back.”

Young person 9 – “Working with professionals to educate students about mental health, not in a condescending way, but genuinely, fostering a safe space for students to feel they can open up about mental health issues. On top of this have the same physical medical area be welcoming to take students who are dealing with mental health issues, (to reduce stigma of going to a ‘special place’ for non-physical issues), and training of faculty members within the school training on recognising the signs of mental health issues within their age students, as well as training in neurodiversity to understand students with additional needs.”

Young person 10 – “Educate on the importance of taking care of mental health – pe for mental health.”

Young person 11 – “Mental health and techniques such as mindfulness should be taught in schools from a young age.”

Young person 12 – “I think it should be taught more, how common it can be and the signs to look out for not just for yourself but for students to look out for the well-being of their friends.”

We also asked, what do you think are the main causes for mental health within schools, colleges and unis?

Young person 6 – The stress of it and the pressure put on us”

Young person 7 – “Bullying, high expectations and pressure, big classes, lack of 121 support.”

Young person 8 – “Stress about exams. Too much work given. Falling behind in work feeling too much to do. Feeling pressure from people around them to get good grades. Feeling like grades make them good or bad. Other disorders that are not addressed can cause more stress and sadness in school.”

Young person 9 –  “School/College Unreasonable pressure to get good grades (gcse’s are not the massive exams they’re made up to be – and shouldn’t be treated like a mission critical life of death situation) – and neither are mocs! They’re just trial runs; they should be chill open book chances to get used to the testing methodology, but still be able to ask questions about things students do not know. Then there are hormones and kids changing, and of course this goes hand in hand with bullying and the cycle of kids having a poor home-life so bring that to school taking it out on other kids, and those kids bringing the crappy school-life back home – it’s self perpetuating! At university things are different, no longer is there bullying and awful people, (usually!) However the pressure to do well is intensified. – but students are not given the option to drop out of they genuinely cannot do it, and are shamed for doing so (when there is no shame in realising something isn’t for you) – this stemming from students being forced to “keep at it” until after their probation is ended and they’ve paid the University. And to that end the narrative that students are pitted against one another is untrue, you can work together to lift one another up (no, not plagiarising!) But by sharing your skills as a whole class (or larger as a course) the whole is lifted up. – and this can finally start to work as by this time students are mature enough not to pick on one another and exclude others because they have freckles for instance. For some students the move away from home can be daunting, especially if it’s a long distance. And so knowledge of how to care for themselves may be limited – so communal events framed as cooking challenges and/group grocery shopping trips could solve this. Another cause of mental health issues is the shift in how to write academically, 3rd person, referencing and how to research is a huge departure from the way schools are taught, and the 1st year of university is not always framed as the trail for students to learn how to do these things with the support of their classmates, their tutors and study skills personnel. Finally neurodiversity and Disabilities funds is unclear and whilst the help provided is amazing, not being straightforward with what help is available only hurts those it’s trying to help for the sake of saving money.”

Young person 10 – “Stress with the content, stress of friendships and relationships, exhaustion, burnout, lack of interest in content.”

Young person 11 – “Stress from pressure to get good grades.”

Young person 12 – “Stress and the work pressure Lack of teacher support Bullying or loneliness.”

Lastly, the young people wrote about what support could be put in place to reduce mental health struggles within schools, colleges and uni’s?

Young person 6 –  “Helplines, people we can talk to, have a box where we can anonymously put our feelings and thoughts in.”

Young person 7 – “121 support sessions for each student.”

Young person 8 – “Talking to students about the work they set. If a kid is struggling to get it down, ask what they would prefer to help them get through it. Breaks from school to chill and breathe so they don’t get too stressed or too overworked. Education more about mental health and provide tools to help them.”

Young person 9 – “See answer from previous questions.” 

Young person 10 – “A slot in the timetable for mental health education and/or recommending/providing counselling.”

Young person 11 – “Running workshops – which should be compulsory in schools – on stress management and how to look after your mental health.”

Young person 12 – “Ensure students have time to talk to teachers about work struggles Better systems to monitor bullying – stricter punishment for bullies etc.”

Final comments from the young people – 

“Mental health is a complex topic and effects and is treated differently in different people. – so care should be taken to have the patient feel heard and explore together ways for them to become self-sufficient and have coping mechanisms that work for them on an individual basis – and not just what the manual says should be done – yes use this, but as a guideline. Reducing stigma both in having mental health problems, and more importantly in receiving help with mental health issues. – this is a massive issue and why I still believe young males are killing themselves as they’re taught to “be a man and just get on with it” rather than seeking help they need. And of course the same is true for young girls and others such as those in the LGBTQIA community with each having their own societal barriers and expectations that are damaging.”

“Sometimes school counsellors aren’t properly trained and can make the damage worse.”

“Please just educate teachers on the signs of mental health problems. educate them on signs of neurodivergent in a range of different people. educate them on how to approach students who might be struggling. use mental health specialists.

Overall, from the answers received from the survey, it seems that schools play a big role in mental health within students. Young people are in schools up to 53% of the year so there should be better use of that time when focusing on pupils’ mental health.