School exam stress sparks rise in child counselling

Boy sitting an exam

The number of children in Scotland contacting the NSPCC's Childline service over exam stress has more than doubled in a year.

Counselling sessions for girls who gave their location as Scotland rose from 53 in 2015-16 to 108 in 2016-17.

Calls from boys were up from five in 2015-2016 to 20 last year.

With some callers not giving their gender, the total number of counselling sessions delivered rose from 106 to 150.

UK figures revealed that Childline gave 3,135 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016-17 - a rise of 11% over two years.

More than a fifth of those took place in May as pupils faced upcoming exams, with many telling counsellors they were struggling with subjects, excessive workloads and feeling unprepared.

Children aged 12-15 were most likely to be counselled about exam stress.

But this year saw the biggest rise - up 21% on 2015-16 - amongst 16-18-year-olds, many of whom were preparing for exams to determine university places.

Panic attacks

The charity said young people consistently told counsellors exam stress was contributing to "depression, anxiety, panic attacks, excessive crying, low self-esteem, self-harming and suicidal thoughts".

Joanna Barrett, acting national head of NSPCC Scotland, 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 counterproductive, leaving young people unable to revise and prepare.

"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."

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