School Pressure Is Contributing To Mental Health Issues In Merton

Council pledges to take action after report finds pupils are fearing failure

Merton council meeting

Pressure to succeed at school is contributing to young people in Merton facing mental health problems including depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Monday (picture above from Merton TV), Councillor Natasha Irons presented a report on children’s mental health.

Over a year, a task group visited groups of young people in Merton to hear what the council could do to improve mental health services in the borough.

There are an estimated 2,380 children in Merton aged between five and 16 with mental health problems. This is 8.5% of the total population of children and young people.

Councillor Irons said: “We spent time with youth parliament and as I’ve said before it was one of the most depressing nights of my life because when you hear a bunch of 14-year-olds talk about how much pressure they’re under and how scared they are of failure it just breaks your heart because you know they’ve got a lot of joy to come.”

The task group also met with peer support group Hearts and Minds for young people ages 16-25.

Councillor Irons said that they told the group how “confusing and lonely” it can be being a young person with mental health issues in Merton.

The report made a total of 13 recommendations including encouraging schools to adopt a mental health strategy, raise awareness of what help is available and ensure that work reaches under-represented communities such as BAME and LGBTQ+ people.

It also recommends trialling social prescribing for young people. This is when GPs direct patients to non-medical treatments in the community to improve their health and wellbeing.

“It can be quite lonely for young people these days,” added Councillor Irons. “You assume that young people are all chatting on social media, but it is not building social interaction.”

Cabinet approved the recommendations of the paper and now council officers will draw up an action plan for them to be implemented.

The full report can be found here:

By Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

November 14, 2019