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Exam worry prompts surge in helpline calls

Press Association logoPress Association 16/05/2017

Exam stress compounded with social media pressures has led to a surge in young people calling a suicide prevention helpline, UK charity bosses say.

The current test season has seen a sharp rise in school and college students seeking help for suicidal thoughts and "serious" exam stress, amid concerns about their future and letting down their parents and teachers, Papyrus HopeLine said.

Children as young as 12 have contacted the charity's hotline in recent months, with concerns about fitting in at school and the recent phenomenon known as FOMO - fear of missing out - sparked by social media posts.

Heather Dickinson, manager of Papyrus HopeLine UK, which attempts to prevent suicide in young people, told the Press Association anecdotal evidence from the charity's call handlers suggested they had seen a noticeable increase.

"In general, use of the service has gone up abut 30 per cent and we've found exam stress is more prominent this year," she said.

"We're getting more calls from younger children and parents of younger children as well, so we're not just talking about GCSEs and A-levels, we're also talking about younger children.

"It kicks off when they go to secondary school or university, but we are getting calls from younger people as well.

"Once we get into the older categories, it is more about GCSEs and university."

A pre-existing patchwork of problems - including fears about fitting in, relationships with peers, and the situation at home - adds to the stress of exams, Ms Dickinson said.

Teenagers and young people on social media increasingly compare themselves to other people's success, worrying about jobs and "getting on in the world".

Exam stress is often the "last straw", Ms Dickinson said.

In recent weeks, high-profile campaigners such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have spoken out about their mental health experiences through the Heads Together campaign.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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