Charity head calls for education to tackle mental health crisis

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind, has called for greater education to tackle mental health issues

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk Mind, has called for greater education to tackle mental health issues - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A charity head has said greater education is key after figures revealed boys were five times less likely than girls to seek help for their mental wellbeing. 

Jon Neal, chief executive of Suffolk MIND, said work was taking place in schools to encourage a greater understanding of their own mental health among children and how they can protect themselves. 

Statistics from counselling service Childline show that in the year 2020/2021, 31,899 sessions for mental health were held with girls, compared to just 5,622 with boys. 

For suicidal thoughts and feelings, 11,719 sessions were held with girls, but just 1,592 with boys. 

Mr Neal said: “While it is good to encourage boys, as well as girls, to seek help when they need it, we think it is just as important to enable children and young people to understand their own mental health and how they can protect themselves. 

“This is why we are working in primary schools, with children as young as five, introducing the idea that we all have emotional needs that must be met in order to stay well; we all need to feel safe and in control, part of a community of friends and family that values us, for example.” 

He added the aim was to create a ‘language’ that enabled children to help each other and take care of their own wellbeing, while making it clear that they should seek support when they need it. 

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“Not everyone wishes to discuss how they are feeling over the phone. They may prefer practical solutions or activities which connect them with others and take their mind off issues in their lives. 

“So, we need to be able to offer support which meets people’s needs in a variety of ways,” Mr Neal added. 

Will Blewit, from Bury St Edmunds, sits on the Young People’s Board for Change at charity National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (NSPCC), which runs Childline.  

He said the last two years had been the "hardest imaginable" for young people and had seen anxiety "skyrocket".  

“I urge all those in need to reach out and remember that Childline is here for any young person struggling with their mental health,” he added. 

Contact Childline for free 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.