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Does counselling help with self-harm and depression?

By Daisy, Kathryn and Hatty

Many children and teenagers suffer from mental illnesses which cause them to self-harm and suffer from depression. Does the help they receive really benefit them? These types of illnesses are very common amongst teenagers and not many people are aware of how serious these situations are and how badly people are affected during and after a diagnosis. One in ten children and young people aged 5 - 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder - that is around three children in every class.

We interviewed a student taking help from a counsellor as a result of depression and self-harm. The main points of concern that arose from our conversation were that although counselling helps control the illness, it’s not a quick fix or cure and only works with specific types of treatment on different people as our brains work differently. Our interview was very telling, and some of the questions we asked were:

How helpful is the counsellor?

“The counsellor is kind, empathetic, firm but fair. She listens to my views on my problem and she tries to use my opinion to help and create a type of solution suitable for my situation. For example when I was going through a tough time, she didn’t force me to speak and waited until I was ready.”

Do you feel any benefits from the process?

“I feel less chaotic and I don’t have the awful feeling that I used to suffer from. The counselling calms me down and lets me process the things that I want to change in my life and make it better.”

Have you improved since the beginning of your diagnosis?

“I don’t feel the need to do it any more, which is a huge benefit and relief. I am not completely back to the way I was, but counselling is definitely working for me and I would recommend it for people suffering from a similar mental health problem as me.”

Between one in twelve and one in fifteen children and young people deliberately self-harm. Early identification and effective intervention is the key to successfully treating a mental disorder and preventing future disability. However, alarmingly, 70% of young people who experience a mental health problem do not receive the appropriate support they need.* In contrast, from the interview, we discovered that counselling is an effective way of communicating with a patient and solving their problems in a sensitive way.

However, we can see that counselling helps in specific cases and ways: for example, expecting a person who is suffering from depression to talk openly can be unrealistic, but others could react differently to this course of treatment, making it much more productive. The results are unpredictable and cannot be generalised by the sole case of any one person but generally, counselling does help and it can relieve the stress caused by these illnesses.

*Source: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/childrenstats.html