Letter: Childhood stress in the 1930s

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Sir: As a university lecturer, former psychiatric nurse and active researcher in the field of mental health, my reactions to your article "Learning to cope with stress, aged 11" (2 August) were mixed.

Certainly some forms of stress - such as family breakdown and bereavement - are unavoidable. In that sense the value of teaching young people how to cope with stress cannot be disputed. But to suggest that the most appropriate response to the pressures of exams and schoolwork is to teach young people stress management techniques is to miss the point.

If schoolwork has indeed become so stressful that young people cannot cope with it without being taught stress management, there is something fundamentally wrong with the education system. In that sense a more appropriate intervention than teaching stress management would be to identify and eliminate those aspects of the educational system which are making children feel miserable, depressed, rejected and inadequate. That would be true mental health promotion.


Lecturer in Applied Social Studies

University of Manchester