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Highland help available for pupils at testing time

By Tom Ramage

Childline has revealed that thousands of young people have turned to them for support as they struggle to cope with the pressure of exam stress.

A testing time
A testing time

New figures from the NSPCC, released as children are due to sit their exams, show that Childline delivered 2,795 counselling sessions in the UK on exam stress in 2018/19 – with around a third taking place in April and May.

Young people who were stressed about their exams told Childline they were worried about disappointing their parents; trying their best and still failing; having excessive workloads and feeling unmotivated to revise.

A teenage boy told Childline: “I am about to take my GCSEs and I am under so much stress that I find it hard to motivate myself. My friends are studying a lot which is putting me under more pressure. I’ve tried talking to my mum but it ends up in an argument as she gets angry when I don’t study.”

Others told counsellors the prospect of taking exams was having an adverse effect on their mental health, with some coping by self-harming and others saying they were feeling suicidal.

The most common ages for exam stress counselling were with 15 and 16-year-olds, as they worked towards their GCSEs.

Childline is urging all young people to speak out if they are stressed about their exams, especially boys as figures reveal they are five times less likely than girls to talk to counsellors about the pressure they are under.

Anna Williamson, Childline counsellor and writer of teen book, How Not to Lose It said: “It is vital that family, friends and teachers are there to support children and teenagers during this stressful time.

“My advice to parents would be to never say ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’. Children won’t care and it isn’t about you. Also never compare siblings. What you can do is ask if they need anything, say you are proud of them and offer an end-of-exams celebration to help them visualise it being over.”

The NSPCC has recently received over £2million thanks to players of People's Postcode Lottery, which will help Childline be there for more children who need help with exam stress or other issues.

Leanne Ferries, Childline Aberdeen base manager, said: “Taking exams places a lot of pressure on young people. Worryingly for some these feelings can act as a trigger to them developing mental health issues.

“It’s important that family, friends and teachers are there to support children and teenagers during this stressful time, listening to them and keeping them calm and focused so they can properly prepare for the challenges to come.

“Childline is there 24/7 for any young person who may feel they have no one to turn to for support.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email help@nspcc.org.uk. Children can call Childline on 0800 11 11 or www.childline.org.uk any time of the day or night.

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