By Billy Watson, SAMH Chief Executive

IT’S that time of year again when students across Scotland are revising for and sitting exams. For many young people, this is a time of immense pressure and it has been well reported that the pressure of exams is perhaps greater than it’s ever been; so it’s increasingly important in such times of stress, young people are equipped to understand wellbeing, keep themselves well, and ask for help when they need it.

Tomorrow SAMH is launching Testing Times, a new campaign aiming to highlight the anxieties around exam time and raise awareness of steps that can be taken and measures that can be put in place to provide support to our young people. We’ve been joined by a host of people including X-Factor star Nicholas McDonald, Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Mental Health, and representatives from the Girl Guides, Scouts Scotland and Scottish Youth Parliament. All talking about times they’ve experienced anxiety, and what they do to manage it. We want to help create a culture where young people can discuss emotional wellbeing openly, both with their peers and adults in their lives.

For some years now, we’ve been campaigning on children and young people’s mental health, drawing attention to the three children in every classroom who experience a mental health problem by the age of 16. Over the past year, we’ve been encouraged by commitments on this issue from the Scottish Government; however we are eager to see these progress to action on the ground.

The matter is urgent and thanks to our supporters and fundraisers, SAMH is now taking action by charitably funding an extensive series of initiatives inside a new programme of direct support and activity. This work is being led by our new dedicated children and young people’s team, who between them have extensive experience across teaching, social work and mental health nursing.

Young people spend a lot of their week in education, so as a setting it is a natural fit for much of this work. We’ll also focus on major transitions – from primary, to secondary, to college – with a progressive programme which looks at connecting mental health and wellbeing into everyday school life. We will build on our successful partnership with Glasgow Clyde College, creating open and vibrant, mentally healthy college communities. Crucially we will work with CAMHS teams to deliver therapeutic pilots using an evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme in schools, working with Professor Chris Williams at the University of Glasgow.

We also want to see national action. Health and wellbeing is a core aspect of the Curriculum for Excellence, yet teachers have told us that they don’t feel confident in this area. Supported by the General Teaching Council for Scotland, we are launching a new online learning resource, designed to equip teachers with skills and knowledge to recognise and respond to pupils experiencing a mental health problem. However, from janitors to classroom assistants, young people come in contact with a number of adults at school; so we’ll continue to call for the creation of a consistent, national programme to train all school staff in mental health.

Exam stress is just one of the many pressures young people face growing up, and the classroom just one setting. Complementing our work in education, we are also delivering work in partnership with a number of great organisations, including the Scouts, the National Theatre for Scotland, Project Scotland, Young Scot and The Princes Trust.

Whatever their need, young people deserve to be able to access help and they have waited long enough – urgent action is required, and we’re pleased to play our part in this.