School/worklife balance causing mental health problems

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A generation of Coleraine students faces a bleak future as neither parents nor teachers feel equipped to deal with their mental health issues, according to a local teacher.

Jacquie Reid from the town, former teacher at Millburn Primary and Deputy General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking as studies reveal that young people are prepared to sacrifice their own happiness for exam success and that young women’s mental health in particular has declined sharply in recent years.

“The new report from the National Citizen Service* revealed that only 11% of parents feel well prepared to help their children in this academic year while less than half the young people surveyed thought being happy was more important than good grades,” she said.

“The NCS report follows on the heels of YouGov* findings revealing female students are more likely to have mental health problems at university than their male counterparts and a Children’s Society report showing that over one in 10 teen girls are unhappy with their lives.

“While it’s essential parents and teachers instil an understanding of the value of hard work for later success in life, it’s concerning that so many parents and teenagers are failing to recognise the importance of developing a healthy balance between school work and other activities that can develop broader skills for work and independent living.

“Young people need to get that balance right – that is a life skill young people need to learn as it will sustain them throughout their working lives – and personal lives. It is an area which needs focus and specialist support as when that balance is out of kilter all sorts of issues can ensue – including mental health problems.

“It is therefore vital that we as a society can equip our young people with the coping strategies to help them get that work-life balance right at this most challenging time in their lives.

“We, as parents and teachers, also need to be aware of the warning signs when things aren’t going well. 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 NCS has launched a campaign to help support parents but as teachers we need a more focused approach; we need the proper training and funding to ensure these most important of life lessons are learned early.

“By failing to address these issues early on, the system must be held accountable for the potential tragedy of these young lives.”