Crocus Group, which offers bereavement support to children and young people in the Highlands, has spoken following the publication of a report into the consequences of childhood bereavement in the British school system.
Published by the Cambridge University faculty of education for the Winston’s Wish charity, the report identified that the UK is lacking a government-led national bereavement policy for schools. This is despite the fact that the equivalent of every classroom in the UK contains at least one child who has lost a parent or sibling.
Crocus Group currently offers training days in venues across the Highlands, which aim to educate and support school staff and youth workers in supporting bereaved young people. Following this training, ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) technology is used to offer regular opportunities for follow up bereavement advice and training.
Speaking about the situation, Crocus Group Service Manager Hannah Lind said, “In Scotland the Children and Young People Mental Health Task Force Delivery Plan has highlighted the growing evidence base for links between adverse experiences, such as bereavement, and mental health difficulties in young people. It recognises that there is a huge middle ground between those young people meeting the criteria for specialised counselling support and therapy and those who do not require any extra support.
“Those who fall into this area make up the majority of the children and young people that we see at Crocus. They do need support, but not necessarily in the form of one-to-one private counselling sessions or high tier mental health interventions. What we offer is a more relaxed approach, in the form of peer support, helping to identify coping mechanisms and providing the reassurance that the feelings they are experiencing are not abnormal.
“The most important thing for us is that these young people are heard and have a voice. Very often they do need some kind of support, which we deliver in a variety of forms, and can equip schools based staff to deliver.”
The UK report identified that 20% of bereaved participants said that they had not talked to anyone about their loss. This directly correlated with an increased risk of having participated in bullying or assaults.
Hannah admits that this statistic is worrying. “We are doing our best in the Highlands to deliver as much education and training as possible, and offer support wherever we can, alongside fantastic provisions from other services and programmes such as Seasons for Growth. However, we acknowledge that there are children and young people in the Highlands who could be helped by us but, for various reasons, do not access our services either directly or indirectly.
“Whether this is due to a lack of awareness about what we offer, or restriction on time for training, it is my hope that the future will see an increase in the support the education system can offer to bereaved children and young adults. The support given in these years is vital as it provides an important foundation for the rest of a child’s life."