Mental health experts have called on parents of A-Level students to look out for signs of anxiety in their children as results day approaches.
Medics suggested 18 year olds, who are the first generation to sit A-Levels without previously taking GCSEs, are experiencing more worry about their results than previous years.
It comes as 11 London hospitals that provide mental health services have launched a campaign to alert A-Level and GCSE students to where they can get mental health support early before they reach crisis point.
Students took exams for the first time since the pandemic this summer, and results, which are released on Thursday, are expected to be lower than last year’s as Ofqual cracks down on grade inflation.
There is also expected to be fierce competition to secure university places through clearing.
Psychotherapist John Sharry of SilverCloud Health, which provides digital Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programmes to teenagers through the NHS said: “Teenagers who did their A-levels this year have experienced heightened anxiety and stress as they faced doing pressured formal exams after a long gap.
“Many of the teenagers I have worked with have felt out of practice with exams and others were suffering a lack of confidence in their ability or feeling a sense of demotivation and questioning the value of education. All these feelings come back to the fore as they now await the results of their exams taken earlier this year.”
He advised parents to keep an eye on their children’s behaviour, adding: “Check in with them regularly to monitor their mood and make sure they are not suffering through their feelings alone. This can be as simple as asking how they’re feeling over a cup of tea, or whilst on a walk.”
The London-wide Open Your Mind campaign, run by the Cavendish Square Group which represents all London’s mental health trusts, aims to support young people to seek help early. The group said children too often end up in A&E because they did not get help soon enough or know where else to go. It highlights digital text support, NHS mental health crisis lines and counselling that is available.
David Bradley, Chair of the Cavendish Square Group, said: “We know that exam season is a stressful time for everyone in terms of the expectations some young people may put on themselves especially if they do not achieve the results they were hoping for.”
As part of the campaign Hannah, a 22 year old from Barnet, spoke about how exam pressure affected her.
She suffered mental health problems since the age of 14 and was admitted to an adolescent ward when she was 15 after two consecutive overdoses.
Hannah, who has now completed her first year at university and hopes to become a psychologist, said: “I really struggled just before getting my exam results at school. There was a lot of build-up at school about how important the exam years were and there were my own high expectations of myself on top of that.
“I found school really overwhelming and it was a lot about being in an environment with so many people and I had to find my own way throughout that. Having other support through a campaign like Open Your Mind would have been really helpful.”
Giancarlo Brotto, Global Education Advisor at SMART Technologies, said: “With disruptions to the classroom and difficult adjustments to teaching over the last three academic years, anxiety over results is understandably higher than usual.”
Sue Reece, Registrar at the University of Kingston said staff on clearing hotlines are well trained to deal with students who are anxious or in distress.
She added: “There are students who may be more disappointed because they saw students getting higher grades last year.”