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YMCA has been a pillar for our schools as mental health issues become more and more common.

Heather Hann, Head of School Improvement at St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan MAT’s Story

Disclaimer: Ben’s name has been changed to protect their identity.

“Before Covid, Ben was a happy student who liked going to school. However, when the pandemic struck, Ben began to find it difficult to attend class. He was struggling with anxiety and low confidence which made his learning tough.”

“As Head of School Improvement at St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Multi Academy Trust, I knew something needed to be done. Luckily, we were able to turn to the YMCA. Thanks to the charity, we saw Ben’s self-esteem improve and his willingness to learn return.”

“Talking to somebody made a huge difference. Today, Ben is happier in the classroom and his confidence and overall mental health is much better.”

Unfortunately, Ben isn’t the only young person to struggle.

“Covid has played a huge part in a growing number of mental health illness amongst young people. I have seen an increase in pupils who need support across our schools. We know that wellbeing is directly linked to their school enjoyment and progress – we have already seen attendance, willingness to learn, behaviour and overall mental wellness improve through our work with YMCA.”

Mental health is a growing concern in the UK as conditions become more common among children and young people. A recent poll by Place2Be and the National Association of Head Teachers in February 2022 found that the pandemic has perpetuated mental health issues, with 86% of school leaders and teachers noting low self-esteem across students. 76% of those surveyed saw an increase in depression and 68% witnessed an increase in constant feelings of anger.

According to the survey…
Only 23% of staff said they could point pupils with mental health needs to specialist support.

“As Head of School Improvement and with my previous experience as a teacher and headteacher myself, it can feel incredibly overwhelming to see students suffer without support. No teacher wants to let their students down, which can take a toll on their own wellbeing.

“Early intervention is vital to supporting young people with mental health difficulties, however, too many of our students have previously faced long waiting lists that can lead to symptoms worsening.

“YMCA has been extremely responsive to our needs. Students need not endure long waiting lists and have been able to access support quickly. The charity has provided bespoke support and helped in transforming the lives of many students like Ben. Their tailored mental health training programme has equipped our schools with the necessary skills and knowledge, and staff feel more confident about supporting pupils. I have seen many improvements in the overall wellbeing of students. We will continue with YMCA for as long as students need.”

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