A worrying rise in children self-harming has raised further concerns after BBC Wales reported children as young as six are causing pain to themselves.
19 of Wales’ 22 councils failed to provide details on self-harming in schools after a Freedom of Information request was made. Yet Pembrokeshire council said their number of referrals had risen from 8 to 48 in the last two years, with the youngest pupil on record aged six.
Such concerns have been reflected by the NSPCC who stated the number of children hospitalised by self-harm in Wales has risen by 41% in just three years.
These alarming statistics have prompted Owen Hathway, Wales policy officer at NEU, to suggest, “having a more standardised approach ensuring additional funding is put into schools to employ people specifically trained for wellbeing could certainly be looked at.”
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Professor Sally Holland, claimed teachers simply do not have the capacity to support such situations as effectively as they would like. She explained, “I don’t think teachers can be expected to undertake the mental health work in schools, there are experts who can come into schools to do that with the necessary expertise and training.”
Holland called for “health and education experts, youth and social workers and the voluntary sector to be working together with young children and their families. We need to assist children who are starting to show signs like self-harm so it doesn’t become a mental health emergency.”
A spokesperson for the Welsh Government responded by stating “the education secretary and health secretary have been considering how emotional resilience and mental health can be strengthened in school settings and we will be making a significant announcement shortly.”
Evolve Health Mentors are specially trained to provide support to individuals who have emotional and mental health and wellbeing concerns. Whilst teachers often find it difficult to provide the time required to mentor these vulnerable groups, the Health Mentor timetable is specifically designed to provide opportunities for individuals to talk through their concerns with such a member of staff.
Amie Richards, Wales Regional Manager for Evolve, stated, “Health Mentors across South Wales are trained to implement meaningful mentoring experiences with vulnerable children to improve their health and wellbeing. The effect of this is an increase in emotional wellbeing, personal development, physical and cognitive health. Last academic year alone, the South Wales team delivering Project HE:RO improved children’s health and wellbeing by 10%.”
To find out more about how a Health Mentor can support such children and the school environment, contact Amie by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.