St Albans Youth Council tackles Nick Clegg on teenage mental health

St Albans Youth Council meets Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

St Albans Youth Council meets Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - Credit: Photo supplied

THE devastating impact of three tragic suicides by teenagers in St Albans in 2009 has prompted a determined group of youngsters to demand MPs help tackle mental health issues amongst secondary school pupils.

St Albans Youth Council recently met four politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and St Albans MP Anne Main, to discuss the findings of the group’s mental health report.

The council, with the help of UK Youth Parliament Herts, surveyed over 1,800 Year 8 and 10 students throughout the county, including in St Albans, in the wake of the deaths of two teenage pupils at Sandringham School and an 18-year-old student from St Albans Girls School.

Its findings are contained in the report which focuses on awareness of and possible need for extended provision of mental health and counselling services for secondary school students in Herts.

The survey found that the first professional a student would go to for help obtaining counselling services was a teacher and that in most schools surveyed, the majority of students were unaware whether counselling was available or not.

The report was labelled a “brave initiative and a critical study of mental health issues facing the next generation of this country” by St Albans district councillor Dean Russell.

Data collected showed that high numbers of young people routinely suffered from stress associated with school life and a small but significant number might need support for more serious issues such as self-harm and eating disorders.

Most Read

The report has been forwarded to Minister for Care, Norman Lamb, and Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

The youth council has also discussed its findings with MP Charles Walker, chair of the all-parliamentary group for mental health, who promised to discuss the findings with colleagues and his committee.

Nick Sutton, media officer for the youth council, said the group had contacted fellow councils representing young people throughout the UK to ascertain whether the findings were echoed elsewhere, to build a national picture of the problem.

Angela Thick, youth council chair, said the findings have also been discussed in the House of Lords and funding has been promised by St Albans district council for new initiatives that supported young people.

She said: “We are now surveying teachers and contacting other youth councils around the country to see if they would like to join forces and repeat our work in their area.”

Mrs Main said that while she agreed greater emphasis should be placed on young people with mental health issues in education, given the pressures on teachers and the National Curriculum a way forward might be for the group to ask the district council to help organise a youth wellbeing fair.

She said providers of mental health services in St Albans such as Youth Talk could set up stalls, to allow young people to see what was available to them.

The report, commissioned by the youth council and supported by Youth Connexions, was dedicated to those young people who took their own lives.