Young people need support through the ‘Testing Times’ of exam season – Pam Steel

Help is at hand for school pupils trying to cope with the immense pressure of exams, says Pam Steel

By The Newsroom
Monday, 29th April 2019, 6:00 am
Exams ramp up the pressure on young people. Picture: PA
Exams ramp up the pressure on young people. Picture: PA

It’s that time of year again when students across Scotland are revising for and sitting exams. For many young people, this is a time of immense pressure, so it’s important that young people are equipped to understand wellbeing, keep themselves well, and ask for help when they need it. That’s why SAMH has launched ‘Testing Times’, a new campaign to highlight the anxieties around exam time and equip more young people with the tools to manage those anxieties. We’ve been joined by a host of people including X-Factor star Nicholas McDonald and Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament Suki Wan MSYP, all talking about times they’ve experienced anxiety, and what they do to manage it. We want to help create a culture where young people can discuss emotional wellbeing openly, both with their peers and adults in their lives.

As a PE teacher at Wallace High School in Stirling, I see first-hand the effect that stress and anxiety can have on young people. And I’m determined to do what I can to help. That’s why I’m working with SAMH to create resources to assist young people and teachers in dealing positively with mental health problems. As part of Testing Times, we’ve developed a set of top tips for dealing with exam anxiety, and we’ve worked with Professor Chris Williams at the University of Glasgow to produce a video packed full of helpful advice.

Thanks to our supporters and fundraisers, SAMH now has a dedicated Children and Young People’s Team. Between us we have years of experience across teaching, social work and mental health nursing. We’re working in schools, colleges and communities, connecting mental health and wellbeing into everyday school life and creating open and vibrant mentally healthy college communities.

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Pam Steel, Education Development Officer, SAMH

Here in Edinburgh, my colleague Shona McInally is working in Castleview Primary and Castlebrae High to deliver our Connect programme, which helps children transition between primary and secondary schools. This can be a stressful time, so Shona is helping to equip pupils and teachers to manage the transition. In Craigmount school we’re working with the National Theatre of Scotland on their project Like Flying, which uses the performing arts to transform young people’s understanding of mental health.

We also want to see national action. Health and wellbeing is the responsibility of all within the Curriculum for Excellence, yet teachers have told us that they don’t feel confident in this area. Supported by The General Teaching Council for Scotland, SAMH is launching a new online learning resource, which will equip teachers to recognise and respond to pupils experiencing a mental health problem. However, from janitors to classroom assistants, young people come in contact with a number of adults at school; so we’ll continue to call for the creation of a consistent, national programme to train all school staff in mental health. Everyone with a role in a young person’s life should be confident that they can help – parents, teachers, sports coaches, youth workers. We’ll keep working to make that happen, during the exam period and beyond.

Pam Steel is Education Development Officer at SAMH. Download the Testing Times Top Tips at