Scotland's teenagers deserve maximum government support - Catherine Salmond

When I was 18, I was lucky enough to see my life as one to be lived to the maximum.

Through educational opportunities and friendships – many of which remain as precious as they did then – it was a huge adventure, with good and bad times.

We were young, full of it, hungry for new experiences, challenges and – above all – a huge amount of fun.

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We sought it out, carefree, firm in the belief our parents often had no idea what we were up to.

S1 to S3 pupils attend Rosshall Academy, Glasgow, March 2021. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Today, Brodie Marr, an 18-year-old from Dumfries, writes for us about his experiences as a school leaver during the pandemic.

His maturity, sense of perspective and eloquence has blown me away, while his teenage life sits in stark contrast to the one I lived.

While my friends and I threw ourselves into regular schooling, endless socialising, live music, trips away and – most importantly – freedom, Brodie and his peer group have spent the vast majority of the last year-and-a-half stuck in their homes as the world battled Covid.

I have no doubt my 18-year-old self would have struggled, emotionally and academically, and my maturity, focus and self-confidence would have been tested.

Scotland on Sunday editor, Catherine Salmond. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia

Huge credit must go to Brodie – who will now go on to study at Edinburgh University – and every school leaver in Scotland.

Thousands of them earned the exam results they needed this week to carry them on to the next stage in their lives.

And, of course, as Brodie stresses, massive praise must be given to every teacher and educational professional who never gave up in these exceptional circumstances, giving Scotland’s children the support they so desperately needed.

It is alarming to read in our pages today of the huge concerns there are for children’s mental health as Scotland’s schools are due to reopen following the summer break.

Our health correspondent Elsa Maishman spoke with leading paediatricians, who cited increases in self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression in our young people, many simply struggling to cope with the challenges and uncertainties the pandemic has thrust at them.

Many face new worries as they return to school this week, which will remain far from ‘normal’ for some time yet.

Joanne Smith, policy and public affairs manager at NSPCC Scotland, stressed how crucial it is for schools across the country to support children’s mental and emotional wellbeing – and to be given the resources to do so.

I have no doubt schools will do all they can for our children, but this next stage requires massive support from the Scottish Government.

Being a teenager is complex at the best of times, but the pandemic has hit our children hard, stripping them of the freedoms they needed to grow and develop, while filling many of them with immeasurable anxiety and pressure.

There cannot be enough done for this generation, to ensure it has the support needed to move on in a post-pandemic Scotland and meet the fresh challenges of adulthood head on.

Catherine Salmond is editor of Scotland on Sunday

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