Mental health: A false dichotomy
Mental health and academic achievement are not an either/or. As we respond to the pandemic, we must involve children and look beneath the surface, says Matthew Purves
School years, and particularly adolescence, have always been difficult for some young people to navigate. This challenge has only grown over the last 18 months. The evidence tells us that there has been a significant increase in mental health needs among children and young people during the pandemic (NHS, 2021).
Of course, the picture is nuanced: for some children and young people their mental health has improved during the pandemic, reporting less anxiety and engaging successfully in online learning.
Then there are the children stuck somewhere in the middle: those young people whose needs are less obvious and perhaps fall under the radar. Those who are ‘just coping’.
But the bottom line is this: as the new school year progresses and autumn turns into winter, we cannot assume that all is well.
In the months ahead, some young people may have presenting needs that are clear and obvious. But research also shows that an increased proportion of children and young people are just not willing to tell the adults around them – in school or at home – what is going on in their private lives (Steer Education, 2021). They may present a positive face to the world, but in reality they are dealing with more on their own than ever before.
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