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Exam stress and anxiety

For many children and young people, this time of year exams play integral part of their lives. However, in light of this, so does the stress of exams becomes increasingly heightened, amid young people’s fears of letting their parents and teachers down. This evokes stress and anxiety for which many young people conceal and find alternative ways of attempting to deal and cope with pressures of exams. There has been alarming rates reported of young people contacting helplines and having to deal with such pressures alone and comparing themselves to other people’s successes through social media.

In my last post I celebrated just how encouraging it was to see and hear so many media campaigns surrounding mental health for young people. I believe that schools, colleges, and University’s need to continue to provide services and accessible pathways for children and young people to explore and find healthier ways of dealing and coping with exam stresses. With this in mind, counselling for me provides children and young people with opportunity to share and open up to someone trustworthy and genuine, and be able to communicate their emotions, in a safe space.

I had a curiosity about children’s experiences of accessing emotional support. So in a recent study I wanted to gain children’s experiences and whether they felt any stigma was attached to seeking emotional support. I personally have benefited from accessing emotional support, despite getting messages and being influenced by friends, TV, and media that it’s not okay and it’s not very manly to express how you feel. I wanted to know what would encourage more boys to access emotional support.

At the start of my study 4 school aged male participants were selected from an inner city school in London. I stated that I was going to explore boy’s experiences and help seeking attitudes, which I feel still remains a barrier for boys. I felt I succeeded in gaining some understanding about the barriers, along the strains and turmoil for which many children feel they are alone and have to deal with issues by themselves. However, with the aid of charities and counselling organisations working specifically in schools, colleges and universities it offers pathways for children and young people to access emotional support when issues arise and reduces any stigma attached to seeking help, which clearly is a significant factor in many boys not seeking support. The continued progression into such pathways will further develop a much brighter outlook and perception upon seeking help, especially in light of young people’s exam stresses. This affirms much of what is already known about the counselling process, and can appreciate the rich experiences these sessions elicit for children and young people experiencing exam stresses.

There is still more to be done and further qualitative research would assist to generate a wider insight into young people’s views and opinions to inform future qualitative research, and thus validate services as a valuable and useful intervention in improving the mental health for children and young people seeking help and support in schools, colleges and Universities.

Useful websites and helplines:

Samaritans offers a listens service which is open 24 hours a day

Mind: Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393

Get connected: is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994


“I can’t thank you enough for always being there for me Hugh. Over the past year during the pandemic lot’s of things came up for me that I needed to work through. Thank you for always listening and helping me understand and accept who I am. Thanks for changing my life and giving me hope for my future”.

Female, 17, South London

‘Deciding to find yourself a therapist can feel like a surrender; ending a shouting match you’ve been having with your own head by simply throwing the toys out the pram and asking somebody else to pick them up and put them back in. It shouldn’t be, and therapy with Hugh certainly wasn’t: it was a victory that snuck slowly out of nowhere. It transliterated the battle between me and my brain into a solicitous conversation between the two of us, one that not only let the clouds lift on my anxiety and depression, but gave a gilt edge outline to a proud sense of self my own neuroses had up until that point forced me to repeatedly detour around. With Hugh I went from getting lost in myself and losing myself in the process to being able to elide my past and present selves into a cohesive and honest conception of who I am that I am continually proud of without even realising it. Now when I stare inside I don’t have to flinch and look away, thanks to Hugh I simply smile.’

Continual thanks for everything you’ve done!

Male, 25, South London
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