Huge increase in Scots children seeking support for exam stress

Exam stress

​School children in Scotland reporting stress-related problems more than ever before 

12th May 2017 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

Scots children contacting the NSPCC’s Childline service over exam stress has more than doubled in the space of a year.

Counselling sessions for girls jumped from 53 in 2015-16 to 108 in 2016-17 while contacts from boys rose from just five in 2015-2016 to 20 last year.

The total number of counselling sessions delivered to children in Scotland rose from 106 to 150.

Worryingly, young people are consistently telling counsellors that exam stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, excessive crying, low self-esteem, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, or even make pre-existing mental health conditions worse.  

The figures are part of thousands of contacts made to Childline across the UK in the past year as young people turn to the vital service for help as they struggle to cope with the pressure of exam stress.                  

UK figures reveal that Childline delivered 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016/17 – a rise of 11% over two years.

A Childline counsellor in the Glasgow base said: “I was contacted by a 15-year-old girl called Sam from Scotland a few times as she wanted to talk about a number of issues that were worrying her such as her appearance and fighting with her brother.

“After a long chat Sam was able to identify that her exams were causing her stress. She had been trying to tell her parents that she was worried about her exams and while they had tried to help her she was still overwhelmed with the amount of revision she had.

“I listened to her and helped her to see that it was the exam stress which was behind her fighting with her brother. We talked about her future, career aspirations and she shared her passion about becoming a paediatric nurse and helping children. 

“This reminded Sam why she was working so hard and she sounded more enthusiastic. We discussed study methods that suited her best and also talked about her coping methods.”

More than a fifth of the calls took place in May as pupils faced upcoming exams with many telling counsellors they were struggling with subjects, excessive workloads and feeling unprepared.

It's vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period - Joanna Barrett

One teenage boy who contacted Childline said: “I'm really feeling the pressure of exams, I've been having panic attacks and difficulty breathing. I'm so afraid of not getting the right grades and I'm stressed about the future. My life could turn out so differently depending on what I get.”

Joanna Barrett, acting national head of NSPCC Scotland, said: “Every year we hear from thousands of children who are struggling to cope with the pressure to succeed in exams.

"For some this can feel so insurmountable that it causes crippling anxiety and stress and in some cases contributes to mental health issues or even suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“Exams are important but worrying and panicking about them can be counterproductive, leaving young people unable to revise and prepare.

“It is vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period to help them do the best they can.

“Childline is also here 24/7 for any young person needing confidential support and advice.”

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16th May 2017 by Stuart McCallum

If you are interested in effective training to tackle this issue why not contact FDAMH's Mental Health Training Academy.We have been delivering whole class mental health training:Pupil Support Teacher at one of the local High Schools taking part, had the following to say about his experience with FDAMH Training Academy:“Pupils’ improved emotional well-being has had a sustained positive impact upon attendance and engagement in education as a result of support from the FDAMH team.”if you want to find out more about our school based mental health training programme please call 01324 671600