Secondary Students’ Union of Northern Ireland collaboration with Pivotal

Secondary Students’ Union of Northern Ireland (SSUNI) recently completed a survey with 2,131 students across Northern Ireland to explore student experiences of mental health. 

The data was discussed within policy workshops facilitated by Dr Ben Harper (Research Manager) and Anna DeWitt (Research Assistant) to support SSUNI with evidence–based policy making.  The resulting analysis and report was completed with support from Pivotal.

SSUNI found that a large proportion of respondents (76%) experienced mental health problems. Inconsistent, and at times communication that was deemed to be ‘poor’ from the Department of Education was found to increase distress for students.  85% of respondents stated that the lack of clarity on future assessment procedures placed a strain on their mental health. The analysis found that whilst many young people were able to access school based counselling, only 42% of students felt comfortable accessing these services.

The SSUNI report concludes with five key policy recommendations:

1.       Co–ordinated and effective government working is required to address the mental health crisis in Northern Ireland

2.       Stakeholder involvement must be integral to policy decision–making within the Executive

3.       Policies to address lockdown learning and the emotional impact of the pandemic must be adequately resourced

4.       Mental health interventions must be focused on early intervention with teachers trained to support young people

5.       Access to high quality counselling services across Northern Ireland should be standard practice.

See report for further details.

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