Anti-Bullying Week: Teachers “ill-equipped” to deal with mental health issues

Seven in ten teachers say they feel “ill-equipped” to deal with mental health issues stemming from bullying, a new survey shows.

To mark the start of Anti-Bullying Week, the Anti-Bullying Alliance released figures showing more than a quarter of 16-25 year olds who were bullied at school said it impacted on their mental health, and they experienced depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Forty per cent of young people surveyed said a teacher trained in dealing with bullying would have made a difference to them, but of the 170 teachers who responded to the survey, only 30 per cent there was adequate support at school to help children with mental health issues.

Teachers (57 per cent) said in-school counsellors would better support such vulnerable children. Staff questioned as part of the survey said they would like better training.

A report released last year, by the Department for Education (DfE), said 40 per cent of year 9 pupils had experienced bullying in the previous 12 months; this was a fall of 5 per cent from the previous year.

Lauren Seager-Smith, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance said: “Bullying is a public health issue. We all need to play our part to stop bullying wherever and whenever it happens – whether it’s in school, the community or online – but it’s vital that we also invest in support for children and families impacted by bullying.

“We would like to see more training for teachers and health professionals, in school counselling, and much needed funds for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.”

Sarah Brennan, CEO of YoungMinds said: “We tend to think of bullying as a series of throwaway incidents in a child’s life but this survey shows how devastating and life-changing the experience of bullying can be.

“If it isn’t dealt with effectively it can lead to years of pain and suffering that go on long into adulthood. We need to skill up teachers, parents and GPs to be able to respond to victims in ways that make them feel listened to, taken seriously and cared for.”

Dr Mary Bousted
Dr Mary Bousted

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the union’s own research pointed to a greater need for training to support children with mental health issues.

She said almost 90 per cent of teachers said in the past two years, the demand for support had increased.

Dr Bousted said: “Despite the obvious need for greater expertise amongst education professionals, just 9 per cent of school staff feel sufficiently trained to identify the signs of mental health issues in pupils.

“A worrying 32 per cent of respondents stated they were given no training whatsoever to help spot potential issues, while 45 per cent feel the training they received was insufficient.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Bullying is unacceptable in any form and thanks to our reforms, and the efforts of teachers and charities, figures show 30,000 fewer children in England were bullied compared to 2005.

“We recognise the impact bullying can have on mental health and we are investing £1.4 billion over the next five years for young people’s mental health services, including £1.5m for a single point of contact pilot scheme with NHS England, so young people can access high quality, joined up support.”

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  1. Yes, more support is needed to deal with these issues, but I feel passionately that more has to be done in terms of prevention. We need to be teaching mums, teachers and those working with children how to build self-esteem, resilience and body confidence in our youngsters from an early age. I work with mums giving them the tools and skills to coach their daughters from the sidelines. This is particularly crucial at around 9, 10 and 11 years of age, as they transition to secondary school. There needs to be more focus on emotional & social education. Academic achievement will then follow.