Mental health in teens is a very important issue and so The Drop spoke to teenagers across the country about how helpful the current systems are, and whether they need to be improved.

From long waiting times to lack of support in schools – families have blamed government budgets, poor attitudes, and failings in the current system.

50% of mental illnesses begin before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. 

The Drop spoke to three teenagers from different parts of the UK about their experiences with the system.

A Year 12 student from Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School (HCCS) in Cheshire was introduced to the school’s welfare team after a suicide attempt at the start of Year 10. 

They said: “Mental health has a huge impact on academic achievement. If pupils don’t have a clear mind or have lots of things they’re worrying about, focusing on your studies is near impossible.

“The support I received meant I felt more at ease coming to school and therefore found it easier to socialise which meant I felt less isolated and alone.”

Following the attempt they were diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. The school helped by introducing them to the Open Learning Centre which is a small, staffed area where pupils can go for additional support.

They told The Drop: “I was supported in getting back on track with my school work which meant some of my anxiety around academic success was soothed and I was able to sit my GCSE’s – which is something I thought I’d never be able to do.”

Knowing they had the support there meant they were able to better focus in lessons. 

HCCS in Cheshire.

They continued: “Without the school’s help I definitely think I wouldn’t have gotten the grades I wanted and I don’t think I’d have many friends. 

“I would still be avoiding coming into school which would mean I’d be falling behind in my studies and my academic anxiety would be worse.”

Laura Warren, director of upper school at HCCS, said: “Supporting mental health and wellbeing is really important as it can have a significant impact on attendance, behaviour and academic outcomes.”

But not every school offers the same level of support.

Ella Wallis, 16, said her experience of mental health support in school was “appalling.”

The teenanger, from Harrogate, said “My school just didn’t seem to care about my anxiety, even though it was diagnosed by a GP. 

“I was put in learning support as I found learning in a classroom really hard, but learning support was basically just somewhere to shove everyone who was struggling. 

“It was just a classroom with a teaching assistant and we were given work to do on our own rather than being taught. That was even worse. Eventually, I just stopped going to school.”

In an exclusive interview with The Drop, Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd explained that young people’s mental health needs more investment.

He said: “It’s not just about throwing pound coins at the issue. 

“We need to make an investment to ensure that we’re training the right specialists, and we need to reinforce the idea that mental health care matters. 

“It is a money issue, but it’s money applied into training and the curation of those specialist posts as well as raising general awareness about mental health in our society.”

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Another Year 12 pupil from HCCS helped by the school agreed that whilst the support they received was good, there’s still more that needs to be done.

They said: “I think schools nationally should be doing more to support pupils. 

“This could just be by having more qualified people who know how to deal with young people’s mental health. 

“Also giving students more knowledge on organisations that help with mental health so when they need help, they know where they can receive it in case they don’t feel comfortable enough to speak to their school or family.”

Mrs Warren told The Drop HCCS offers preventative support for pupils through PSHE lessons and school assemblies, as well as more bespoke and targeted support from the pastoral team for pupils who are struggling.

When necessary, they also promote specialist support from external organisations such as Visyon, a charity which supports the emotional health of young people and their families across Cheshire East.

Mrs Warren said: “All staff have received mental health training at school and our pastoral teams have accessed more bespoke training and safeguarding training at an advanced level. 

“We currently have two members of staff who are training to become senior mental health leads and this will support our further development.”

According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four people experience a mental health problem each year.

Mr Lloyd MP said: “If you begin to treat people’s mental health in childhood then you save them an awful lot of misery. 

“You’re also saving society from an awful cost in the future if things deteriorate and get worse in adult life – it’s sensible from everybody’s point of view to go in for early treatment in childhood.

“But it does need that commitment to lead to real investment of time, energy and money from central government, and sadly we’re not yet seeing that.”

Young people struggling with their mental health can contact the Young Mind’s Textline by texting YM to 85258.

The Samaritans helpline is also open 24/7 on 116 123.