School fights teen anxiety

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A Spalding teenager who became so depressed at school she cut herself says she wished her parents had taken up opportunities like those now being offered at another South Holland academy.

Thomas Cowley High School in Donington has launched a Teenage Mental Health Initiative after shock reports that the number of students facing problems has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Last year, the Spalding Guardian spoke to 17-year-old Megan Vellam – a former student at Sir John Gleed School - who found herself struggling to cope with pressures of exams and course work.

Megan, of Roman Bank, said: “I don’t mind talking about what I did – I cut and burned my arms for the majority of school.

“I was bullied at school anyway and with teachers also constantly pounding you about the future, it does cause depression.

“I didn’t know how to cope with depression, so I took it out on myself because I didn’t want to hurt others.”

A series of information evenings exploring problems ranging from depression and anxiety to self-harm are being planned at Thomas Cowley High School and parents are being encouraged to attend.

Megan, who is now studying fine arts at Stamford College, said: “I think my mum would have picked up on what was wrong had she gone to something like that.”

Martyn Taylor, headteacher at Thomas Cowley, said: “We are proud of our reputation as a caring school - and not just an exams factory.

“We work very hard to ensure all of our students achieve their potential and we do this by focussing on their emotional wellbeing just as we do their academic progress.”

Children and Adolescent Mental health Service (CAMHS) professionals will lead the sessions, offering parents advice on how best to support their young people through adolescence.

There will also be student workshops on self-esteem and body confidence, delivered by trained professionals from BEAT - the UK’s leading eating disorders charity.

Mary Meredith, assistant headteacher and organiser of the campaign, said: “Withdrawing from activities because of some idea in your head about the way you look is such a waste of potential.

“If students leave these workshops feeling more confident about themselves, we will have made an important difference.”

Parents interested in finding out more about the workshops are invited to an information evening at the school on Wednesday, March 5, from 6pm to 7pm.