I was really sad to read this article in the Guardian about the state of mental health in UK schools and particularly about the difficulty that children and teachers are having in getting access to the appropriate care. I’ve written previously about my experience with getting access to treatment. In my case it took around 7 months. Fortunately I was able to find coping mechanisms in the meantime but I can imagine that this would be incredibly challenging for a child.
School years can be a difficult time even if you are in relatively good mental health. I look back on my time at school fairly positively. I had a good group of friends and some supportive teachers. I did experience some periods of being bullied but I was generally either able to stick up for myself or had teachers intervene.
I remember one period of bullying where this big dumb kid from the year below had targeted me as his latest project and for a while I got regular physical and verbal abuse from him.
One day I was walking out of the lunch time computer club and he followed me out into the corridor and began his latest round of threats. He had his back to the door and didn’t see the teacher who ran the computer club walk up behind him. I stood there smiling at the kid with my arms crossed waiting for him to finish. At the end of his speech, the teacher put his arm down on his shoulder.
The kid turned around and from his body language, I wouldn’t be surprised if his bowels moved a little. The teacher carefully escorted the kid back into the computer room and into his office. I have no idea what was said but that kid never said another word to me.
A belief that I have expressed to many people on numerous occasions is that children are exposed to and allowed to use the Internet, smartphones and tablets etc at far too young an age and that this is likely to be a significant contributing factor. I know that most social media platforms have minimum age requirements
I’ve seen many instances in public places of children going into absolute hysterics when parents have tried to remove devices in order to get them to interact with other family members. This addiction in itself is bound to cause mental health issues but there is also the anxiety that comes to social media interactions where there is no caring teacher around to moderate and deal with the bullies.
Whilst it is positive that the Government appears to recognize that there is a problem and apparently are willing to put more funding in place I hope that at least some of this goes into schemes to better prepare children for going online and how to deal with trolls and bullying. In the article a government spokesperson is quoted as saying:
Making sure children and young people have the right support when they need it is vital. That’s why we are giving an extra £300m to provide more support linked to schools, including new support teams to provide quicker support to children.
“We recognise there is more to do – we’ve extended our schools and NHS link pilot to deliver training in 20 more areas of the country this year to improve links between 1,200 schools and their local specialist mental health services.
I agree with this in principle but I hope that as much time and resource is put into trying to avoid mental health issues occurring as in dealing with the after effects. This includes making sure that children are mentally prepared and stable enough to deal with any negative interactions that they have so that they don’t lead to health problems.
It may be a contentious opinion but whilst it is absolutely essential to have sufficient support services in place to be able to deal with those who are suffering from mental health issues as a result of online activity I think it’s also important to put time and resources into making sure that both children and adults are mentally prepared and stable enough to be online without supervision in the first place.
I’ll end with this (be warned, it’s a bit sweary!)