New research by YoungMinds shows that many young people with mental health problems are struggling to cope as they return to secondary school, after months of living through the COVID-19 crisis. The charity strongly welcomes the reopening of schools, but warns that schools urgently need new funding to provide wellbeing and mental health support to meet the growing needs.
In a survey with 2,011 11-18 year olds with a history of mental health needs , carried out during the first four weeks of the new term , 61% of respondents agreed that their mental health had initially got worse since returning to school, while only 27% said that it had got better. Only 15% agreed that there was enough information and support available for their mental health at their school, while 58% disagreed.
Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) said that there was less mental health support in their school than before the pandemic, while only 9% agreed that there was more mental health support.
The research suggests that schools face intense pressure to prioritise academic catch-up and safety measures, and that many do not have sufficient resources to make wellbeing and mental health a priority.
The findings show:
- 69% of respondents described their mental health as poor now that they are back at school; this has risen from 58% who described their mental health as poor before returning to school.
- 40% of respondents said that there was no school counsellor available to support students in their school
- Only 27% had had a one-to-one conversation with a teacher or another member of staff in which they were asked about their wellbeing, by the time they completed the survey.
The research highlighted positives for mental health in the initial return to school, with respondents indicating that seeing friends, having a routine, and seeing their teachers were beneficial. However, many said that the rapid return to academic pressure, after six months away, was having a negative impact. Others raised concerns about safety, social distancing measures, and difficult relationships with peers, including bullying.