At the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, and the day on which students across the country begin sitting this year's GCSE exams, Greater Brighton Metropolitan College is launching a #NoStressSuccess campaign in partnership with the YMCA in Sussex to help teens reduce stress and look after their mental health during exams.
The MET and local YMCA agreed to join forces to support 16-year-olds and their families this summer after data gathered by YMCA Right Here, a health and wellbeing project that delivers Exam Stress Workshops in Sussex secondary schools, showed that workshop requests from schools have increased by 40% over the past three years. And the number of students asking for post-workshop support has tripled in the same period.
Chas Walker, CEO of the Sussex and Surrey YMCA DownsLink Group said, "More and more young people are experiencing symptoms of stress and other mental health issues as a result of the pressure associated with GCSEs. Exam stress has increased as a reported concern for young people accessing our services over the past five years - recorded levels in 2016/17 were almost double what they were back in 2012/13. Reported levels of anxiety around the transition from secondary school to college and the workplace has also increased. The YMCA is excited to be working with The MET College on this important initiative."
Designed to help teens keep their stress levels down and their minds open to what success can look like after they leave secondary school, the #NoStressSuccess campaign includes an online
'Study Stress Survival Guide'
published today on YMCA Right Here's
FindGetGive mental health support website
. It includes a visual guide to the 'Four Zones of Stress' - showing how to identify and manage symptoms and when to seek different kinds of everyday and specialist support.
Video and blog #NoStressSuccess Stories featuring 17-19 year-old 'exam survivors' from across Sussex are also being shared on social media, offering this summer's GCSE candidates personal perspectives on coping with exams and how being 'successful' after school isn't all about what GCSE grades you get.
Some of the stories include frank accounts about fainting due to exam stress, being separated from other students at school due to anxiety and feeling 'sad and heartbroken' on GCSE results day.
The overarching message of the campaign is that there is more than one path to success - whether you get nine GCSEs or none, you have options. And that while GCSEs are important for accessing college courses and future employment, they are not the be all and end all and should not be negatively affecting a young person's mental wellbeing.
Nick Juba, Chief Executive Officer of The Greater Brighton Metropolitan College said, "GCSEs are an important step towards young people finding something they can thrive at but they are not the only path to success. We have students who passed all their GCSEs with the highest grades; students who studied hard and managed to get four or five; and students who didn't pass any GCSEs at school. What they all have in common is that they have found something that really motivates and interests them and as a result they are happy and doing well.
"My message to Year 11 students who are about to start their GCSE exams is please don't panic during the exam process or on results day because whatever happens, there will always be options available and people to help you find the one that's best for you."
The MET will be running an advice clinic on Twitter at @GBMETcoll on GCSE results day on 23 August for students and parents who are worried or confused about college and training options for 16-19 year-olds in Sussex.
Follow the #NoStressSuccess campaign on Facebook and Twitter @GBMETcoll on Instagram at greater_brighton_met and on YouTube:
Read blogs from Gabrielle and other MET students