Pupils trained to reduce stress levels

By Lucy Adams
Political correspondent, BBC Scotland

Media caption,
Pupils at St Paul's High School took part in the project

A school in one of Glasgow's most deprived areas is training parents, pupils and staff in how to cope with stress.

As part of the pilot, all S4 pupils at St Paul's High School in Pollok were assessed before the programme began.

About 40% showed high levels of anxiety and depression, well above the national average .

This dropped to about 20% by the end of the programme which aims to intervene early to prevent longer-term problems.

Across Scotland, one in 10 adults is currently being prescribed an antidepressant.

Almost half of all adults with mental health problems developed them before they left school.

During the pilot programme, teachers were trained in how to run the course and a night class was offered to parents and relatives.

It was run by clinical psychologist Dr Jim White, who has delivered similar schemes for adults within the NHS.

He said that he wanted to run a programme for teenagers in a bid to prevent more serious problems from developing in later life.

"We were a bit surprised at just how many of the pupils were showing signs of difficulties with both anxiety and depression, about four out of 10 of them at the start of the programme.

"Now by the end of the programme, we had halved that.

"But when we followed them up nine months later we were seeing that they were still continuing to improve, so there was a suggestion that the pupils had learned all about stress management and in the months after the class had put it into practice."

Dr White said if early intervention was not taken, there could be "life-long consequences".

He added: "If we are able to get in quickly, then we might be able to stop those quite significant problems."

St Paul's plans to continue and develop the pilot because they believe it has been so successful.

Glasgow City Council said it planned to see if other schools could benefit.

A spokeswoman said: "We are keen to evaluate the results from the pilot with a view to seeing what other schools could benefit."

'My stress levels are so high'

Lauren Mcghee is just 16 but says she has struggled in the past to deal with stress.

"Leading up to my exams, I get very stressed," she says.

"Physically it affects me. I get very nervous and panicky. Sometimes I have even ended up in hospital.

"Last year at prelims time my foot got very sore. I wasn't actually able to walk.

"My mum took me to hospital. They said the pain was unexplained but that they believed it was related to stress.

"Every time I get stressed I can feel the symptoms coming on. They said it is almost like gout because my stress levels are so high."

Lauren says young people have to deal with increasing pressures.

"With homework you have so many subjects and so many things due for certain days," she says.

"And as a teenage girl especially you have to look a certain way and have perfect hair and a tan and a nice body.

"If you're on one social media you have to have all the profiles.

"Everybody has to see everything you are doing all the time.

"You have got to say so much to keep up with all of them so you're telling people things you maybe wouldn't normally about where you're going and what you're doing all the time.

"But it's like constant. And everybody's got an insight into your life. And you've got to because everyone else is doing it."