Study finds panic attacks and depression seen in pupils as young as 4

A recent survey of 2,000 members of NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmaster Union of Women Teachers) found that 98% of teachers have recently come in contact with a student who is suffering from a mental health condition.

Whilst the Department of Edu cation is investing an extra £1.4b in a bid to ensure all children have access to support, schools are currently struggling to gain access to the support needed.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 18% of teachers have seen children as young as 4 to 7 suffering from anxiety attacks and depression
  • The most common age group for displaying mental health conditions is 14-16 years old
  • 9 out of 10 teachers have had a pupil suffer from panic attacks or anxiety
  • 79% are aware of a child suffering from depression
  • 64% knew of a child self harming
  • 49% knew of a child with eating disorders and 47% with OCD

Such conditions will lead to a feeling of isolation for the child, difficulty concentrating, suffering school work and problems making friends.

“It is clear that teachers and school leaders are seeing many more children and young people who are exhibiting the signs of serious mental distress.

“Teachers and school leaders take very seriously their duty of care to their students and it is clear there is a great deal of concern in the profession about the gulf in the availability of expert physiological support and counselling for pupils with mental health needs.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary

Quotes from teachers:

“In the time I have been teaching (since 2007) there has definitely been a massive rise in mental health issues in the students I have taught, both secondary school and sixth form.”

“An increasing number of students are having anxiety issues and panic attacks and they don’t know themselves what is causing them,”


It is clear that funding for mental health support at all levels, including within schools is urgently required. Disappointingly real terms spending has been on the decrease in the UK in recent times. With the proper treatment at an early stage children can tackle their mental health conditions and in many cases avoid having them turn into life long afflictions.  Spending the money up front early in someones diagnosis may seem an increase in spending, but over a lifetime it would be a huge reduction in spending.

A Department of Education spokesperson had this to say, “We are strengthening the links between schools and NHS mental health staff and later this year will publish proposals for further improving services and preventative work.

“Schools can teach about mental health in a number of ways and we have funded the PSHE Association to provide guidance for teachers on how to do this.

“We have already announced plans for every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training. We trust teachers to deliver assessment in a sensible manner that will not create stress among children.”


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