SOUTH Essex schools are seeing “unprecedented demand” for mental health promotion amid fears that student anxiety has increased since the Covid pandemic.
Directors report increased use of counseling services in preparation for graduation and A-level exams, which begin next week.
Some believe that the pressure of probation, combined with the stress of a pandemic, causes a perfect storm.
13th-year students are among the most pressured because they have never passed formal exams in the last two years due to a coronavirus pandemic.
Many of their previous qualifications come from teacher evaluations.
For many people trying to get paperwork, the stress is too great.
Andrew Cooper, director of Westcliff High School for Girls, said the health promotion requirements had quadrupled at the school.
He said: “Preparing for the exams is always a very stressful time and the students facing the exams this year have also had to deal with the challenges of a pandemic and distance learning.
“We have seen an unprecedented demand for our pastoral services with exams, a pandemic, and a return to school.”
He added: “We provide school counseling for those who need individual support and, if necessary, refer pupils to a mental health support team.”
Robin Bevan, director of Southend High School for the Boys, says he has also seen an increase in students seeking mental health support.
He said: “Until a few years ago, we sometimes recommended external services, now we have a full-time on-site counseling service and the benefits of an NHS-funded mental health support team.
“It’s hard to say whether this is a real increase or a suppressed demand that is now opening up.”
Katie Scarnell, director of the Greensward Academy for 11-18 year olds in Hockley, said the school now employs two counselors to address students’ mental health issues.
She said: “For some students, the probationary period at school is especially difficult.
“Due to the pandemic and the fact that students have had learning disabilities in recent years, some students find it even more challenging this year.”
Other heads in Southend offer a more positive view of the situation, arguing student stress may not be an obstacle.
Thorpe Hall School’s principal for students aged 2-16, Stephen Duckitt, said that while the pressure for exams came out best, some saw the experience as an learning opportunity.
He said: “Unfortunately, their anxiety was exacerbated by the pandemic and all the uncertainty that came with it.
“But in many ways, I think most have been able to develop more resilience.
READ MORE: Mom couldn’t work after breaking her ankle to “turn off the streetlights”
READ MORE: Motorcyclist dies in serious A130 accident that closed the road during rush hour
“Overall relief, I think things have finally returned to normal.”
“Last year their peers didn’t have this opportunity and I think many are really happy to have a chance to finish the job and have their moment.”
He added: “Their lives will undoubtedly be filled with relentless pressure, so the pandemic generation has already gained valuable insight into its management.”