This section on mental health needs focuses on those children or young people who have already become mentally unwell, or are on the threshold of being mentally unwell.

It includes information on the different conditions that might affect children and young people, the behaviours that school staff might see that could indicate a student is struggling, and the strategies that school staff can employ to support them.

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Learn more about how anxiety presents in children and young people and how to support your pupils when they are feeling anxious.


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Attachment and child development

Attachment refers to a relationship bond between a child or young person and their primary caregiver. This bond is formed in the early years and has a long-term impact on a child’s sense of self, development, growth and future relationships with others.

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Bereavement and grief

Grief is a natural response to the death of someone close. Everyone will experience grief in a unique and individual way.

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Challenging behaviours

Persistently behaving in a challenging way is often how children and young people communicate that something is wrong - or is a sign that they may be in distress.

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Eating disorders

Most eating disorders develop in adolescence, and can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or cultural background.

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Low mood or depression

Feeling sad is a normal reaction; everyone feels low or down at times and children and young people (just like adults) can be upset by many different things that might occur.

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Suicidal feelings and thoughts

A small number of children and young people experiencing low mood or depression may feel hopless and think that life is not worth living.

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Obsessive-compulsive behaviour

Children and young people with obsessive compulsive behaviour (commonly known as obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD) have repeating thoughts, images or feelings that are distressing. They also carry out rituals or habits to temporarily feel better.

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Overactivity and poor concentration

All children and young people may experience problems with concentration and hyperactivity but when these are persistent and/or severe, they may need additional support to maximise their chances of learning and developing effectively.

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Self-harm is when a child or young person intentionally damages or hurts their body. It can become addictive because of the natural pain-relieving endorphins that are released when people hurt themselves, which can give a temporary sense of relief.

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The UK Trauma Council defines trauma as ‘a distressing event or events that are so extreme or intense that they overwhelm a person’s ability to cope, resulting in lasting negative impact.’

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