Addressing mental health issues among local schoolchildren could be the difference between life and death for young women, according to a local teacher.
Jacquie Reid from the town, a former teacher at Millburn primary and Deputy General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking as a new report from the Children’s Society* reveals that over one in 10 teen girls are unhappy with their lives.
“Coming on the heels of the latest research from YouGov** showing that female students are more likely to have mental health problems at university than their male counterparts, this paints a bleak picture of the society in which our girls grow up,” she said.
“The statistics in these reports make shocking reading – but sadly they are not unexpected as their seeds are sown in our schools which are relentlessly under-resourced to tackle these issues.
“Unless the system is geared to identify and support children with mental health problems all too often these will become entrenched and can lead to the most tragic of consequence in adult life, especially for women.
“The YouGov report shows that about a quarter of all students surveyed said they had a mental health problem – rising to a third of women.
“This echoes a study this summer by the University of Ulster*** which revealed that a third of women aged under 25 in Northern Ireland who die by suicide are students. This is a huge skewing of the figures and there must have been earlier signs in these young women’s lives which could have been spotted as red flags.
“Sadly teachers are all too aware of the mental health issues with which many of their pupils live on a daily basis but they are limited in how they can address these due to lack of training and resources.
“A survey last year from the Children’s Law Society and Save The Children revealed that about a quarter of children here reported a mental health concern yet only a third felt they’d received any help.
“As teachers we are often in the frontline of identifying children affected. We need proper training to be equipped to offer the most appropriate support to these young people, to give them the tools to cope as they develop into teenagers and progress to college and work.
“We now have statistics from The Children’s Society, YouGov, the University of Ulster and The Children’s Law Society but how many more reports do we need before this area of children’s well-being is adequately funded?
“If these issues are not tackled in childhood the evidence shows that the situation does not resolve itself in later life but sadly the consequences are often even more tragic when they can literally become a matter of life and death.”
“By failing to address these issues early on, the system must be held accountable for the potential tragedy of these young lives.”