In this SEND Youth Forum session, the young people discussed mental health. The discussion started around why young people with SEND may be more likely to have mental health challenges than their peers and how mental health and SEND intersect. The young people shared a range of responses from some of their personal experiences to what their peers have felt.
How we feel…
Low self-esteem and low self-confidence were recognised by the group as some of the more common experiences that a young person may have because of a negative view of themselves and their diagnosis. Some young people with SEND have negative feelings linked to feeling ‘different’ or having different needs to their peers. As a result the young people can feel socially excluded and can have challenges building and maintaining friendships. This may cause them to feel left out and can result in feelings of depression and anxiety.
Many young people may use masking as a coping strategy in their day-to-day life such as at school or in college. Masking is when someone disguises parts of their character to fit in better, this can include mimicking others. This can have a harmful effect on mental health as it is often exhausting and can result in feeling ‘burnt out’.
Another theme that was highlighted was feeling overwhelmed in school by both academic pressures and behavioural expectations. There are instances of young people feeling as if they are expected to work at a standard that they feel is unattainable and when the young people internalise these pressures it negatively impacts them. Particularly when they feel the school or college is not providing them with accommodations that can help them feel like these goals are in reach so they feel more motivated to work towards them.
Furthermore, both young people and parents have emphasised that some young people do not have positive relationships with school staff and that they sometimes feel labelled by their teachers. When a young person is called out by staff or asked to leave the classroom repeatedly they can start to feel excluded from their peers. Particularly when a young person spends less time in the classroom due to internal/ external exclusions or a reduced timetable this can amplify the feelings of social exclusion and feeling left out. This results in them experiencing feelings of social anxiety and nervousness when they re-join the class.
Each child with SEND has a unique and distinct experience and it is important to consider how their diagnosis can influence their mental health and how they are supported to overcome some of these challenges in different environments.
If you are concerned about your mental health or the mental health of another person, there is a useful list of services here.
If you are interested to learn more about the lived experiences of young people with SEND in Slough please contact Jovi 07709525687 or [email protected] .