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Train nurses to identify mental health and bullying

Health professionals need formal training or information in order to support children and young people with mental health symptoms that relate to bullying, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) urged.

More than a quarter of young people who were bullied at school say it impacted on their mental health and that they experienced issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, according to a new survey of 1,500 16-25 year olds.

Lauren Seager-Smith, national coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: “Bullying is a public health issue. We all need to play our part to stop bullying wherever and whenever it happens  - whether it's in school, the community or online… We would like to see more training for teachers and health professionals, in school counselling, and much needed funds for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.”

Over a third of the 16-25 year olds surveyed said that being bullied made them feel angry or withdrawn and more than a quarter of young people said they experienced body image anxieties. A fifth simply avoided school or college as a way of coping with bullying.

Dr Liz England, clinical champion for mental health at the Royal College of GPs, said that bullying and cyber-bullying can lead to “very serious mental health problems,” which health professionals have a “very difficult job in identifying” .

This is since they would usually be visiting their GP for another reason, and “because of the stigma that unfortunately exists around discussing mental health problems,” she added.

England continued: “It is important that our young patients know that GPs are highly trained to deal with physical and mental health problems - and to have sensitive, non-judgmental conversations with patients about any health issue.”