The effect of stress on young people

This month is National Stress Awareness Month, a campaign set up to raise awareness of the growing impact stress has on society and outline the ways in which people affected can seek support. This is an especially important initiative for our sectors and we welcome centres to join us in supporting this awareness month.

Schools and colleges across the UK are dealing with a mental health epidemic, with both primary and secondary school leaders reporting a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks in their learners. High levels of stress have led to an increased number of young people suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health issues.

To get a greater understanding of the factors causing mental health issues in young people, last year Barnardos published a survey on the main worries of children today and how they can be better supported. School was the main cause of stress in 12-16 year olds and other answers included worries about their future, problems at home, their weight and being bullied. Social media was also a concern for children, including worries about getting enough ‘likes’ or responses, online bullying or troubles about something they had seen on various social media channels.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds spoke about the pressure of social media on young people at the University of Buckingham’s Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference in March this year, stating that the relentless presence of social media makes growing up "more pressurised". He also commented that it could be unescapable, making young people compare their own lives to the “perfect” ones on social media. This can have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem, correlating with the rise in eating disorders.

The cliché “school years are the best days of your life” has become less accurate in today’s world, with the pressures on young people becoming too much to handle. Exam style testing is introduced as early as reception class and the pressure of this can lead to severe stress and anxiety in young people, especially for those who struggle academically. In 2017, children’s charity the NSPCC reported a surge in the number of young people seeking help through the Childline support service specifically due to exam stress, rising 11% from 2015.

Stress levels also appear to increase in young adults. An online stress survey of 18 - 24 year olds, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation, found that 60% of respondents have felt so stressed by pressure to succeed they have felt unable to cope. Mark Rowland, director of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Our survey highlights just how vulnerable young people are to mental health problems and given that three quarters of mental health problems are established in people by the age of 24, it is vital we tackle this as a national priority. That is why we are asking for all young people to receive the very best mental health education at schools to promote their wellbeing and resilience.”

Teachers are in a prime position to spot the signs of stress and related issues in young people and through providing support, they can help to address and mitigate mental health issues early on. CACHE offers a range of CPD qualifications in understanding mental health and mental health awareness, to provide educators with the knowledge and tools to spot the signs of stress and mental health issues. They will give people the skills to support mental well-being through various stages of life, inform them of treatment options available and dispel some of the myths and misconceptions frequently linked to mental health issues.

For more information on these qualifications, please visit www.qualhub.co.uk