Swindon youngsters among unhappiest in the country, survey finds

A QUARTER of children surveyed in Swindon are unhappy with their mental health, figures have revealed. 

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza polled more than half a million school pupils across the country for her Big Ask survey between April and May. 

A total of 1,485 children in Swindon aged between nine and 17 responded to a question on their mental health – with 25 per cent saying they were unhappy with it. 

This was one of the highest rates in the country. 

Meanwhile, 15 per cent of children in Swindon said they were unhappy with their physical health, six per cent with their friendships and 11 per cent with their life overall. 

A Swindon Borough Council spokesperson said: “Our young people’s mental health is incredibly important, and it is really useful to have the data from the Children’s Commissioner to inform local planning of services alongside our partners. 

“It is good to know that 75 per cent of children and young people in Swindon are happy with their mental health, but it is concerning that this is lower than the England average. 

“Looking after our mental health and wellbeing is important and we can do this by taking small steps in our everyday life such as spending time with friends, exercising, and learning a new skill.”

The survey found that a fifth of children across England were unhappy with their mental health – but girls were almost twice as likely as boys to think this – 25 per cent versus 13 per cent.

Dame Rachel said this generation were not “snowflakes” but were “veterans of a global crisis”.

She added: “They have seen how colossally frightening life can be, far too young, and have made a lot of sacrifices.

“But they have endured and are emerging stronger and prematurely wise. Bruised, yes, and in many cases seriously vulnerable, but, for the most part, happy, optimistic, and determined.

“They are a survivor generation – a sleeves up, pragmatic generation, with civic minded aspirations.”

The survey also asked pupils what they worry about, with the highest proportion nationally (41 per cent) saying they were concerned about having enough money to buy the things they need.

The second most common worry reported (39 per cent) was whether they will grow up to benefit from a healthy planet.

It was a similar picture in Swindon where 39 per cent of children said they were worried about money, and 38 per cent about the environment.

On the whole, pupils in the area are less optimistic than kids elsewhere.

Co-founder of Men’s Mental Health Swindon Alex Pollock said: “Whilst the work we campaign around for mmhSwindon is primarily targeted at 18+, I’m a big believer of there being more in the curriculum around mental wellbeing for youngsters. 

“Students learn about physical and nutritional health, so why not mental health too? By equipping students with the knowledge and awareness at an early age, there are processes and habits they can implement to improve their mental fitness, as well as hopefully having the courage to be more open about the way they feel.”

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government has already taken action to address young people’s concerns, including an Online Safety Bill, committing to Net Zero and hosting COP26 later this year.

He added: “We know that the pandemic hit young people hard, which is why we have launched a tutoring revolution to make sure they catch up and bolstered mental health support in schools.

“As we drive to level up opportunities across the country, we will continue prioritising young people’s wellbeing alongside academic success.”

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