The number of young people receiving Childline counselling about exam results rose 20% this year, according to new figures from the NSPCC-run helpline.
Many are worried about disappointing their parents, while others are grappling with a fear of failure and the general pressures linked to academic achievement, according to information released by the charity.
One 15-year- old boy told Childline: “I feel like I’m going to explode waiting for my GCSE results.
“I can’t sleep most nights because I’m constantly thinking about my results and feel like I’ve wasted my summer because this has been in the back of my mind the whole time. I don’t want to feel like a failure.”
Childline conducted 1,127 exam-related counselling sessions in 2015/16, up from 937 the previous year. Figures show the need for support peaks in August when results are announced.
The charity stated that stress about exam results can affect young people’s ability to sleep, trigger anxiety attacks, depression and eating disorders. In some cases it can also lead to self-harm and suicidal feelings, or make pre-existing mental health conditions worse.
A 17-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “I’m worried about getting my AS results because I think I might have failed. I’ve really struggled with the workload in college this year and it’s been impossible to concentrate on revising.
“I just don’t feel motivated anymore. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this at the moment, but speaking to Childline has helped me and I feel inspired to try to work through things.”
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless believes the figures show pressure to perform well in exams is being felt by young people across the country.
“We hear from lots of young people each year who are really worried about their results and what the future may hold,” he said. “If they want to talk Childline is always here to listen.”
“It’s important to remember there is life beyond exam results. Disappointing grades are not the end of the world, even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.”
As well as calling Childline’s free confidential helpline on 0800 1111 or visiting childline.org.uk, young people can also email trained counsellors or receive support online via one-to-one chat.
UCAS Exam Results Helpline careers adviser, Iwan Williams, recently offered advice for parents of teenagers who are stressed about their exam results.
“If you can try not panic, it will really help your teenager,” Williams told The Huffington Post UK.
“Encourage them to take a deep breath and keep a clear head as it will be much easier to think through their next steps if they are thinking clearly.”
A level results day falls on Thursday 18 August this year. Mums and dads who are worried about how their child will cope with the news can find more advice from Williams in our guide to A level results day for parents.
GCSE results are published the week after on Thursday 25th August 2016. Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager for 14- to 19-year-olds at the Association of Colleges, has offered advice for parents on how to help their teenagers cope with results day.
NSPCC advice for parents of teens receiving exam results in 2016:
In the build up to results day encourage children to get out and see friends, pursue hobbies and do things that help take their mind off their worries.
Talk about the future together – do they have a range of careers they’d like to pursue rather than focusing on one goal.
Look out for signs children are struggling to cope – are they acting out of character; being particularly moody, quiet, or alternatively being argumentative or very hyperactive.
Talk to the parents of their friends to get a broader picture of how your children are coping.
Don’t place unnecessary pressure on your children if they haven’t got certain grades. They may feel they have failed if they don’t achieve what they thought was expected of them.
Reassure them that even if they haven’t got the grades they wanted it’s not the end of the world – they can retake them or think about alternative plans.
Be supportive and help your child with their worries by talking to them – make sure they know you are there for them whatever grades they get.