Hear my voice | “I know many people who suffer from mental health issues.”

“I know many people who suffer from mental health issues such as anorexia, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, depression and self-harm and I know several people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and the help that these people receive is inadequate.

“Although we are taught how to recognise some mental health issues within our school, education about illnesses such as borderline personality disorder is very limited if not non-existent; however they are very common issues.

“One or two hours isn’t long enough to cover information about all mental health problems in depth. Mental health issues are prevalent in young people so it is vital that we’re taught about a range of issues thoroughly to prevent ignorance and stigmas about these issues in the future.

“Furthermore, we are not taught about how to support people with these mental health issues; this creates a stigma around the issue, or people may say the wrong thing, thus exacerbating the problem and possibly causing the person in question to feel isolated or judged.

“Another issue is the lack of knowledge that schools have around people’s emotional wellbeing. It is imperative that schools should be able to contact health professionals with their concerns …and that schools are aware of the treatment plan for the individual and what they can do to support that person, especially if the student stops complying with treatment.

“Students need to feel like their problems are being handled with care, confidentiality and with their best interests at heart. Safeguarding regulations in schools which ensure that parents are always told about a student’s problems can dissuade students from seeking help and confiding in teachers.

“In physical health care, doctors apply the Gillick competence, which ensures that young people, who are capable of making their own decisions, can talk in confidence about their problems. There is a lack of parity in mental health, where it is assumed that young people do not have the competence to make decisions.

“Families can be an underlying factor in young people’s mental health issues, thus regulations which ensure that legal guardians are told about young people’s mental health problems can be destructive to the family dynamic and the child’s mental health. Ideally, provided the young person is competent, their consent should be sought to share information with family members.

“It is vital that teachers in charge of pastoral care receive adequate mental health training and that every teacher is taught about mental health. All teachers undergo physical first-aid training, so why do they not receive this training for mental health?

“There should also be more than one teacher available in the pastoral role to allow choice for the child, and no other teachers should be told about the child’s problems without the consent of the young person or unless there is serious risk to the individual. Having multiple teachers who deal with pastoral issues is also very useful when teachers have a conflict of interest. If a teacher has a personal relationship with a student, such as being a parent of a student, they should not have to deal with the pastoral issues of that student and should not be made aware of the issue without the child’s consent. Having multiple teachers to handle pastoral issues would solve this problem as the teacher could refer the issue to a different teacher for the benefit of both the teacher and the child.

“It is vital that children feel that they can talk to teachers about these issues as it can be difficult for young people to go to their local doctors without their parents realising, and there are relatively few mental healthcare services that young people can access without seeing a doctor which will provide sufficient support for the individual, therefore it is necessary that young people can raise their issues in schools without their confidentiality being breached, in order to provide more thorough and adequate support for young people with mental health issues.”

Ellie, YEAH! Report participant