Efforts to curb mental health concerns in Fife youngsters have been praised as figures show anxiety related counselling referrals have dropped in schools.
Secondary school pupils are more likely to seek support from their school for anxiety and stress, according to a report which will be presented to the council’s education and children’s service on Tuesday.
Across the region as a whole, more than a quarter of referrals to the schools’ counselling service in 2017/18 were because of anxiety, while 22% were family or stress related.
However, efforts have been made to combat the issue and referrals dropped to 20% in 2018/19 and to 19% in 2019/20.
Pupil-led initiatives, which can provide an alternative to counselling, have played a part in combatting mental health concerns among teenagers, according to the report.
Bell Baxter High School pupils led the way with their presentation to education staff which pushed for a therapy pet to be introduced.
The school also introduced a safe hub for pupils to go when they feel overwhelmed and needed to talk. The hub, which has been open for almost a year, hosts group sessions and promotes wellbeing.
As a result, anxiety referrals at the school have decreased. In 2017/18, 33% of school referrals for counselling were because of anxiety. The following year, the figure dropped to 11% and to 9% by 2019/20.
— Bell Baxter HS (@Bellbaxter_HS) October 25, 2020
Kirkcaldy High School was also singled out in the report for their efforts to support mental health wellbeing.
The school community has mental health pupil ambassadors, mental health first aiders and a pupil support team who developed resources such as Lego therapy, anxiety management, walk-and-talk and friendship groups to help students manage their anxiety and improve their self-esteem.
Referrals dropped by more than 10% over the last three years – 34% of counselling appointments at the school were anxiety related, compared to 21% in 2019/20.
Fife Council are developing an improved service, which is run by DAPL, and are offering pupils one-to-one and group sessions.
The report also shows more children were able to be supported throughout the year as staffing number were increased to allow counselling hours to rise from 50 hours to 333 hours.
Rona Weir, education manager, said: “We have a well-established framework to support young people’s wellbeing – Our Minds Matter – within our schools. The framework is build on strong multi-agency links across the Children’s Services Partnership.
“We’re also working on an effective Schools’ Counselling Service model that will meet the changing needs of our young people, now and in the future.
“This includes work to reduce the number of anxiety related referrals in our schools by introducing different techniques such as peer support groups, like at Kirkcaldy High School, and pupil-led initiatives, like at Bell Baxter, which includes Bella the therapy dog.”