It was powerful to hear Prince Harry speaking out about how the death of his mother has affected his mental health in adult life. He spoke bravely about being ‘very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions’ and only recently seeking professional help through therapy. Our trained practitioners support many people dealing with bereavement and Prince Harry’s testament shows how important access to counselling can be.
Children can be particularly vulnerable following the loss of someone close to them and between four and seven per cent of children experience a parental death before the age of 16. This can cause real issues for young people such as problems with friendships, as friends just don’t know what to say, to more damaging effects such as declining academic performance, regressive behaviours and sometimes even substance misuse.
Harry’s admission of how he ‘shut down his emotions’ is a common experience for many bereaved children. Reluctant to share their worries with family or friends, some don’t want to upset family members who are grieving themselves, or see not showing their grief as a way of protecting their surviving parent.
Counselling in schools can provide vital help to children as they go through the painful process of bereavement. BACP has long been campaigning for universal access to a school-based counsellor for all secondary schools across the UK.
Currently, only Wales and Northern Ireland have nation-wide provision of these services, while young people in England and Scotland are subject to a postcode lottery of access to support.
Dr Andrew Reeves, Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), said: “As children spend a significant amount of time in school, schools have the potential to be a safe haven - offering an effective access point to mental health support for bereavement, as well as mental health problems such as depression.
“In Wales, bereavement was in the top six reasons for children and young people referred on to counselling services; with six per cent of males and five per cent of females; 1,079 children in total (Welsh Government, 2016) having bereavement as their primary presenting issue.
“There are clear benefits of school-based counselling as an early intervention in reducing psychological distress and we will continue to campaign to ensure all our children and young people across the UK have equal access to much needed and proven emotional help and support.
“Prince Harry’s experience has shown that counselling changes lives and access to the right therapeutic support, at the right time, can have a positive and lasting effect.”