The principal of Gordonstoun School in Moray has asked leaders to take the mental health of young people seriously, as she revealed its counselling service is “busier than ever”.
Lisa Kerr said the response to the Covid pandemic has meant the brains of students are being harmed while they are still developing, as they repeatedly go into isolation and are told they are a danger to others.
Writing in a guest column for The Times, Ms Kerr said: “Canvassing my network of dozens of heads in the independent and state sector, one school has seven children on suicide watch.
“Another has had three attempted suicides this term and another a quadrupling of eating disorders.
“One colleague summed up our dismay by describing going to work as ‘watching children fall apart in front of our eyes every day’.”
She added: “At my school, even though we’ve implemented an outstanding mental health recovery curriculum with additional expeditions, sail training and outdoor learning, our counselling is busier than ever.”
In the column, she accused political leaders of being afraid to ask how young people are feeling after 15 months of restrictions, saying: “The answer is that they are not good. Really not good.”
Mental health apps launch
On Sunday, two new apps were launched to help provide mental health support to young people across Aberdeenshire.
Kooth, for those aged 10 to 18, and Togetherall, for those aged 16 and over, will be available to those who need them seven days a week, 365 days a year.
As well as sessions with doctors, professional therapists, counsellors and social workers, app users will also have the opportunity to talk to specially trained “peer mentors”, who are their own age.
The initiative is being funded by a Scottish Government grant for the development of community mental health services for children and young people.
Scottish Government funding
Last November, the government announced £15 million of funding would be made available to local authorities to respond to mental health issues in five to 24-year-olds, with a focus on pressures resulting from the pandemic.
It would be split up into £11.25m for services in response to the pandemic and £3.75m to serve as the first instalment of an annual £15m fund for community health and wellbeing services.
Then-Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said at the time: “By providing funding to tackle the impacts of the pandemic, alongside a separate fund to provide long term mental health and wellbeing support, we aim to deliver help where it is needed.
“This funding is in addition to supporting the recruitment of an additional 80 mental health professionals to work with children and young people, and our recent announcement of a further £3.6m to help provide more than 80 additional counsellors in every college and university in Scotland over the next four years.
“We are also ensuring that every secondary school will have access to a counsellor.”