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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Young people struggling to cope with exam stress turn to NSPCC’s Childline

By Mairead Monds (Childline Service Manager, NSPCC Northern Ireland)

As thousands of young people across Northern Ireland eagerly await their exam results, many will also be reflecting on a particularly tough year. School closures, exam cancellations and changes to the assessment process have all made this an incredibly challenging time.

The NSPCC can reveal that between April and June this year, Childline delivered 1,812 counselling sessions to young people across the UK who spoke about concerns relating to the cancellation of exams. Of these Childline sessions, 43% involved discussion on mental and emotional health or self-harm.

The number of sessions has more than doubled when compared to the same period last year, when 861 counselling sessions were delivered.

Additionally, there were 985 sessions delivered to girls, 220 delivered to boys and 607 of the sessions the gender of the child was either other or unknown.

Mairead Monds (Childline Service Manager, NSPCC Northern Ireland)

Many young people have told us they’re concerned that they may get lower grades than if they’d been able to sit their exams, or that their results are out of their control - whereas others are concerned that they won’t get the results they need for their future.

A 17-year old girl who lives in Northern Ireland told Childline:

“I have exams coming up within the next few weeks and I believe I'm beginning the start of another depressive episode. I am not motivated to do anything never mind revising for my A-levels and I truly don't see the point in living anymore. Nothing is worth it and I'm going to fail my exams because I can't even get myself to wise up and do work cause all I want to do is lie in bed and cry or stare at a wall or sleep. I'm at breaking point.”

If you didn't receive the results you wanted, do not compare yourself to your friends and know there are plenty of options out there such as other courses, training programmes and apprenticeships. Ask a teacher, careers advisor or an adult you trust about your options. If you haven’t got a place at your chosen university through the clearing process, look at different courses you can do with the grades you achieved or take a gap year and do something different like volunteering.

Young people may find it hard to talk to parents or carers about their results, so it is key to be patient and supportive until they feel ready to talk about how they feel. It’s important to encourage your child to take their time to think about what they want to do next and there's no need to rush into a decision straight away.

Let them know they can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice on 0800 1111 or


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