79% Young People 'Too Embarrassed' To Seek Mental Health Support

Four in five young people in Northern Ireland are too afraid or embarrassed to seek help for their mental health, a new report has found.

A survey by the Integrated Education Fund revealed that 79% of respondents felt too ashamed to get support for their emotional well-being and mental health.

Social media, self-image and bullying emerged strongly as contributory factors to stress amongst children, according to post-primary students, as well as complex factors related to home life.

The findings were the conclusion of the day-long conference held at Drumlins Integrated Primary School in Ballynahinch on World Mental Health Day last October. The IEF presented its report at an event in Stormont on Monday 20 January and launched its Ten Priorities to address mental health in schools.

A sample group of P6/7 children identified the transfer test as their biggest worry, while some cited school and homework as a stress factor in their life.

Meanwhile, three out of four post-primary student groups stressed how self-harm and suicide could be the unfortunate outcome of mental health deterioration if left unchecked. Alarmingly, one leader shared how evidence of self-harm was starting to become apparent amongst primary age children.

When asked who they would go to first if they felt in need of support with difficult emotions, only one percent specified that they would currently approach a teacher or tutor, while over 80% said schools should help children to know and name their key support people in school.

Paul Collins, campaign fundraiser with the IEF, said the event will inform a plan to address the issues impacting on the mental health of young people here, giving them the support they need and have asked for at the conference.
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He said: "It's befitting that we release the insightful results of our 'Listening...A Mental Health Conference' on 20th January, what is called "Blue Monday" and conceived as the most depressing day of the year, but for us this is about waking up to the fact that our young people are, often, struggling with many aspects of life including social, home and education. We want to highlight that mental health problems are prevalent but more importantly outline initiatives that can be put in place in an educational environment to support pupils."

Grace Doherty, a Primary Seven student at Drumlins Integrated Primary School, who participated in the Conference in October, said the event highlighted the importance of safeguarding your mental health and opening up to others.

She added: "It also made me understand how big a problem mental health is for young people in Northern Ireland and how there is not enough help for them. As a member of the Students Council in Drumlins IPS I know that even children in primary schools can suffer with their mental health too."

Conference participant, Freya Collins, aged 11, from Lagan Integrated College added: "I believe that if teachers are trained to help poor mental health and parents are supported, we can work together to help improve wellbeing among many young people."

The IEF's Ten Priorities will aim to provide a support-based approach to mental health issues by focusing on training for education providers, access to health experts, delivery of mental health and emotional wellbeing through the curriculum, identifying young mental health ambassadors and establishing Gender Sexuality Alliance groups in the post primary setting, as well as creating programmes that connect with parents, among other things.

Alison Fraser, Head of Funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which made the conference possible by awarding a grant of £10,000 said: "Our experience of working with communities is that when you listen, people, and particularly young people have amazing ideas to make things better. I am proud that funding raised by National Lottery players is being used to highlight mental health, such an important topic, and is helping give young people the chance to form solutions with the Integrated Education Fund, so they can get the support that’s needed. Well done to everyone involved in this project, making a real difference to the lives of young people in Northern Ireland."


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