Why are more students suffering from anxiety? # MH

As DSL I hope that safeguarding issues aren’t trends. Recently though more and more students have told me that they are suffering from anxiety, and to be specific “social anxiety”. Obviously it is the revision and examination period, however after talking to pupils, that doesn’t seem to be the most common cause. Surprising assemblies is one of the student’s biggest worries.

Concerns that students have mentioned, include:bottom

– winning a prize and then having to go up and collect it
-needing to go to the toilet and staff stopping them
-tummy rumbling and everyone hearing
-confined space

As most schools would do, we try to help, letting them sit at the end of the isle and informing staff that some students may need to just get up and go. I have even told the Headmaster not to praise a certain person, which goes against the school ethos.  I can’t really do much about the assembly hall but I wouldn’t call it small, it holds 800 people.  Funny enough students have never told me that the number of people causes anxiety issues.

Where has this come from? I can’t remember anyone 4 or 5 years ago having this issue. It’s a shame when they pass their Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, they (physically) can’t go up and shake the Headmasters hand and enjoy the applause of their peers. I am aware that sometimes students can get stick for being good at something, but I don’t think the school I work at is like this, if anything it’s cool to be clever.

What I have noticed is that many students do Ostrich impressions, sticking their heads in the sand and not actually addressing the situation. What can we do to help these students?  My first point of call is our Health Centre ( HC), who suggests removing the stressful situation and encourage them to see the counsellor. Not every student wants to see the counsellor and Mental Health and Behaviour Guidance written by the Government, we can’t force students to see them. We always involve parents, who are often aware and between us we encourage them to take their child to the doctors.  The threshold for CPT to give the student coping strategies for anxiety is so high that many students don’t meet the criteria. So we as a school are left with a handful of students, who we are constantly encouraging, setting mini goals and listening to.  As a DSL this makes me very uncomfortable and staff often tell me that they feel out of their depth.  They want to help but don’t know how to. So what else can we do? We have raised awareness but what’s next?

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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