SHOCK new figures show schools across the borough are being hit with an ‘anxiety epidemic’ following the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a new report, published on Tuesday by Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, all secondary schools - and a majority of primary schools - said there had been a rise in anxiety reported mental health problems for both students and staff since 2018.
The results also show that primary and secondary schools are crying out for more promised investment from the government in school mental health services and counsellors.
The latest data follows on from John’s original ‘Schools Mental Health Report’, which was carried out in 2018, and subsequently called for more action to combat the mental health crisis among younger-aged pupils.
John said: “My latest report shows that, despite five years of government promises to improve mental health support in schools, little has changed for the better.
“Every school has, again, reported an increase in the number of students with mental health problems, and most say the problems are now more severe with a big rise in reported anxiety.
“Four out of five secondary schools referred more than 20 kids to support services and all primary and secondary schools reported an increase in the number of staff suffering mental health problems.
“Five years after my original Schools Mental Health Report, school leaders still don’t feel like they have the expertise, funding or time to deal with the day-to-day issues they face to support both students and staff.”
Mental health problems, according to education leaders, can blight childhood and adolescence, as well as damage good learning but the evidence also shows that such problems often continue into adult life, unless properly treated.
Half of adult mental health problems - excluding dementia - start before the age of 14, the report claims.
Local rates of mental ill health in young people have been on the rise in recent years, with one in six young people aged six to 16 now estimated to have a probable mental health disorder, compared to one in nine in 2017.
The MP is now calling on specialist support to be funded in every school - for both children and staff - and guaranteed treatment within a month for all who come forward.
A Freedom of Information request revealed 20 per cent of children are waiting more than 12 weeks to be seen.
“Our mental health services are stretched to breaking point and have long waiting lists,” John added.
“The mental health crisis in our schools has got worse since 2018 - for pupils and staff - yet there’s still a serious shortfall in support.
“I will use these findings to meet ministers, promote the case for specialist mental health support in every school and work with teachers’ unions for better staff access to counselling support.”