Pupils with mental health problems face ‘stigma and discrimination’

Young people may have to endure high levels of stigma and discrimination in schools, a major review of mental health services in Scotland finds.

School staff and pupils lack an understanding of how to help those who are suffering from mental health problems, the report by the Mental Health Foundation suggests.

One young person told researchers: “People look at you like a freak in school when you are really down, you feel embarrassed to phone or reach out for help.”

Some people surveyed felt that the problem was so ingrained in society and public services that they were not hopeful of any significant change.

One common suggestion for reducing stigma and discrimination, however, was for health services to work closely with schools.

The report adds: “Tackling stigma and discrimination remains an overriding priority for service users…A lack of understanding and/or ability of school staff and other young people to appropriately support young people with mental health conditions in schools was also raised as a stigma-related concern.”

Research shows that half of all diagnosable mental health conditions start by the age of 14, and the Scottish Youth Parliament recently launched the Speak Your Mind campaign to highlight how they can blight young lives.

Last week, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that an extra £54 million would be spent on mental health services over the next four years, with a focus on young people.

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