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Hundreds of pupils seek counselling for exam stress in the West Midlands

By Marion Brennan | News | Published:

Hundreds of children in the West Midlands are being counselled for overwhelming exam stress, new research has revealed.

Counsellors carried out 850 sessions in the past two years mostly with youngsters in the 12-15 year age group.

However this year saw the biggest rise, up by 21 per cent on 2015-16, among 16 - 18 year olds preparing for A-levels. More than a fifth of the counselling sessions took place in May.

Pupils faced with exams are turning to Childline, telling counsellors they are struggling with subjects, excessive workloads and feeling unprepared.

The figures, released by the NSPCC, showed that its West Midlands base in Birmingham, which also serves the Black Country, was contacted mostly by girls - 496 compared to 354 boys.

Nationally, across its 12 bases, Childline carried out 3,135 counselling sessions in 2016/17, a rise of 11 per cent in two years.

Charity bosses say that young people are consistently telling counsellors that exam stress is contributing to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, excessive crying, low self-esteem, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, or making pre-existing mental health conditions worse.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC said: “Every year we hear from thousands of children who are struggling to cope with the pressure to succeed in exams. For some this can feel so insurmountable that it causes crippling anxiety and stress and in some cases contributes to mental health issues or even suicidal thoughts and feelings.

“Exams are important but worrying and panicking about them can be counter-productive, leaving young people unable to revise and prepare.

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"It is vital that young people are supported by family, friends and teachers during the exam period to help them do the best they can. Childline is also here 24/7 for any young person needing confidential support and advice.”

Childline's founder and president Dame Esther Rantzen said: “I am very distressed that so many young people are turning to Childline because they have nobody else to confide in safely when they are desperately anxious.

“We need to recognise how stressful exams can be, and reassure our young people and support them through these tough times which I remember only too well in my life, and my children’s lives.”

The NSPCC has published advice for young people taking exams, which includes making sure they take regular breaks from revising and take some exercise, going to bed at a reasonable time, thinking positively whatever their fears, and to avoid comparing themselves to their friends.

They also warn parents not to place unnecessary pressure on children to gain certain grades.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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