ALMOST a fifth of children in St Helens are unhappy with their mental health, according to a survey.

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said a fifth of children in England felt this way – making it their top concern – and praised them as being part of a "survivor generation".

She polled more than half a million school pupils across the country for her Big Ask survey between April and May.

In St Helens, 1,924 children aged between nine and 17 responded to a question on their mental health – with 18 per cent saying they were unhappy with it.

Meanwhile, 11 per cent of kids said they were unhappy with their physical health, four per cent with their friendships, and seven per cent with their life overall.

The survey found that a fifth of children across England were unhappy with their mental health – but girls were almost twice as likely as boys to think this, 25 per cent versus 13 per cent.

Dame Rachel said this generation were not "snowflakes", but were "veterans of a global crisis".

She added: “They have seen how colossally frightening life can be, far too young, and have made a lot of sacrifices.

“But they have endured and are emerging stronger and prematurely wise. Bruised, yes, and in many cases seriously vulnerable, but, for the most part, happy, optimistic and determined.

“They are a survivor generation – a sleeves‑up, pragmatic generation, with civic‑minded aspirations.”

The report is calling for a comprehensive catch-up package for schools, a faster expansion of mental health support teams, and stronger safeguards for social media platforms.

The survey also asked pupils what they worry about, with the highest proportion nationally (41 per cent) saying they were concerned about having enough money to buy the things they need.

The second most common worry reported (39 per cent) was whether they will grow up to benefit from a healthy planet.

In St Helens, 40 per cent of children said they were worried about having enough money to buy the things they need, and 37 per cent about having a good job or career.

On the whole, pupils in the area are equally optimistic as kids elsewhere.

Around 52 per cent said it is likely they will have a better life than their parents, in both St Helens and across England.

Catherine Roche, chief executive at mental health charity Place2Be, said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities.

She said: “Our school-based mental health professionals have seen an increase in concerns around self-harm and suicidal thoughts in our secondary schools.

“However, we also know that there was already a big gap in support for children and young people even before the pandemic.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Government has already taken action to address young people’s concerns, including an Online Safety Bill, committing to Net Zero and hosting COP26 later this year.

He said: “We know that the pandemic hit young people hard, which is why we have launched a tutoring revolution to make sure they catch up and bolstered mental health support in schools.

“As we drive to level up opportunities across the country, we will continue prioritising young people’s wellbeing alongside academic success.”

St Helens Council’s cabinet member for wellbeing, culture and heritage, Cllr Anthony Burns, has issued a statement.

He said: “Among our key priorities as a council is to promote good health and ensure children and young people have a positive start in life.

“Key areas for action, such as raising young people’s aspirations and mental health and wellbeing support, are embedded within strategic plans like our borough strategy and recently published public health annual report for 2020-21 – and we will continue to explore how our work around mental wellbeing, resilience and addressing the impact of body image can be amplified for children and young people in St Helens borough.

“Our award-winning St Helens cares model has recently been awarded Public Health England prevention and promotion of better mental health funding as part of the Government’s mental health recovery action plan 2021-22 which seeks to ensure the mental health impacts of Covid-19 are rapidly addressed.

“A portion of this grant is being put into children’s and young people’s services to enhance the current collaborative emotional and mental wellbeing offer of direct support and intervention to children and families, along with family drop-in sessions and specific training and awareness-raising for families and professionals.

“These services will work to support the mental health impacts of Covid-19 for children and young people and families – and build resilience and self-esteem through training and learning opportunities.”