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Understanding our Children’s Mental Wellbeing

26 February 2015

We often underestimate the flexibility and strength of our internationally minded and well-travelled students, and their ability to adapt to difficult and changing circumstances. Certainly I am lucky as the Child Protection Officer for the secondary school, to only see rare cases of students that struggle with the numerous challenges of growing up in the modern world and Shanghai.

However, sadly there are all too many headlines recently from around the world of young people who have shocked friends and relatives with their actions which are linked to mental wellbeing.

Recent research and evaluation of children's mental health show that in the average UK classroom:

  • Two children in every class have a diagnosable mental health problem (a US report from the National Council and Institute of Medicine made that figure about one in five children, Australian analysis makes it one in four children, the UK average is one in ten)
  • Half of those with lifetime mental health issues first experience symptoms by the age of 14 
  • Depression and anxiety amongst teenagers have increased by 75% in the past 25 years
  • Children are less likely to suffer from serious mental health difficulties later in life if they receive support at an early age

These findings dispel traditional myths and preconceptions that mental health problems are an adult’s only concern. In reality it can happen in any setting at any age but the chances increase from adolescence onwards. Mental health concerns can affect young people as well as the more mature. School counsellors and teachers have a role in spotting the signs and problems of young people in school and providing initial guidance and support and reducing any stigma associated with needing to have help. Our form tutors and counsellors are here to help and advise where they can. As ever, in reality it is a partnership between parents and school and we all need to be aware there are a number of signs of mental health issues that some people may simply put down to growing pains, but could be a sign of something else and therefore need to be investigated.

The school works very closely with local healthcare providers where we feel specialist help is required and therefore I am very happy that we have professionals from United Family Healthcare coming to the school to provide extra support for our whole community in the next few weeks.

Where we have dealt with students and their various issues over the years we realise that often problems that we find out about in school are a shock to parents. We have two parent information sessions next week dedicated to giving more information about the common mental wellbeing issues faced by teenagers today. The sessions are being run by our local expert Psychotherapist Dr Peshali Fernando. Dr Fernando is a psychotherapist who has worked with children, adolescents and families, and specialises in treating psychiatric and psychological conditions including anxiety, depression, cross-cultural issues, self-harming, school problems and adjustment disorders. The aim is to give information to parents to help decipher what are the differing signs of a normal teenager growing up compared to a troubled individual that needs more help and ongoing support.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that parents can suggest topics that they would like Dr Fernando to discuss by emailing wellbeing@bisspuxi.com. Thank you to those of you that have already done so, these suggestions have been forwarded on and Dr Fernando will be happy to answer questions on many different areas.  Please also use the address above to confirm which event that you would like to attend. There is an evening session on Thursday 5 March that starts at 7pm in the secondary auditorium and a morning session on Friday 6 March that starts at 9am in the Primary building in Stage One.

As Head of the Secondary School and as a parent, I know this is a fantastic opportunity to come and find out more about the mental health challenges for young people today,  so that we know how to effectively and sympathetically deal with the difficulties of growing up in the modern world. I look forwards to seeing you there.

On a final note we are reaching the culmination of a number of big projects here in school and I am very happy and excited for the 34 students and four teachers who are off on the Tanzania Expedition this evening for a week of truly exciting experiences. Please also don’t forget to buy your tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream which looks like it will be an outstanding school production.

Have a great weekend!

- Chris Share, Head of Secondary


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The British International School Shanghai, Puxi

111 Jinguang RoadHuacao TownMinhang201107Shanghai


金光路111号华漕镇上海市 闵行区201107

Nord Anglia Education

4th Floor, Nova South
160 Victoria Street
LondonUnited Kingdom

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