SSAT NC15 – Professor Tanya Byron – Protecting children’s mental health

tanya byron ssat national conference 2015

Teach young people about their brain – including how to stop it bullying them, says Tanya Byron.

Professor Tanya Byron, the renowned expert on psychological, emotional and mental health, discussed how such issues play out among young people of school age.

She noted the 75% increase in young people who have self-harmed being admitted to hospital A&E departments in the last five years; also the 75% of suicides nationally that occur among young males.

Education today, she said, ‘fetishises IQ. Passing exams is a fake marker of intelligence, whereas what I see in the children and young people I treat (some of them as in-patients) are massive anxiety disorders, which have a catastrophic effect on functioning.’ This means ‘they can’t get on with their lives.’

Education today fetishises IQ. Passing exams is a fake marker of intelligence

Anxiety caused by the ‘obsession with grades’ leads to young people becoming less able to deliver as their anxiety increases, Tanya Byron maintained. Many schoolchildren compare themselves and their performance with each other and become increasingly self-critical, which can be very damaging.

Despite the increasing scale and awareness of these problems, national funding in this area is ‘tiny,’ Tanya Byron complained: ‘only 7-8% on children with mental health issues – and mental health itself is only 11% of the total health budget.’

As a result, only 15% of young people with mental health problems get talking therapy [which is one of the most effective and relatively low-cost treatments]. Exaggerating only slightly, she said, ‘if you’re not suicidal you have to go away and come back when you are!’

Within schools and communities, however, there is much that can be done to ameliorate these issues before they get that far. For example, peer mentoring, in which young people are trained to support each other, can be very effective in developing emotional literacy.

She commended the emotional wellbeing and mental health charity Young Minds.

SSAT National Conference 2015

Follow Tanya on Twitter: @ProfTanya

Follow SSAT on Twitter: @ssat

Like SSAT on Facebook.

View photos from the event here.

Relive the SSAT National Conference 2015 via #SSATNC15

SSAT NC15 – Students from the SSAT network – Are schools getting in the way of education?

8 December 2015

SSAT NC15 – NFER – Enabling disadvantaged pupils to achieve

11 December 2015