BULLYING increases the risk of mental health issues among children in Swindon, a report has revealed.

Barnardo’s, the charity which supports the most vulnerable children in the UK, published findings which identify the key factors affecting the wellbeing of youngsters.

The report was based on the testimonies of more than 400 children and young people in the borough, of which 304 identified bullying. Social media, school pressures and home or family life were among the leading factors on the list.

It also stressed the importance of schools helping pupils cope with mental health problems.

The report said: “If mental health problems are not tackled early there is the risk of failing the next generation. Mental health support in schools can make a significant difference in a child/young person’s life.”

Duncan Webster, the head of student services and safeguarding at New College, said: “Bullying has moved over the years from the stuff of the playground to online bullying.

“Perpetrators don’t need to face their victims and it is easy for others to casually, if unintentionally, join in by liking comments or similar.

“At New College our personal tutors are usually the first port of call to assist their tutees. They run anti-bullying sessions in the tutorial curriculum and also work with any of their students who may be suffering.

"This can involve referral to other support such as counselling or advice on their self-esteem. Occasionally, disciplinary processes may need to be used where perpetrators can be clearly identified.”

The local Clinical Commissioning Group has secured £2.3 million from NHS England to provide schools with mental health teams.

A spokesman from Swindon CCG said: “In the next two years, children and young people in Swindon will be among the very first in the country to feel the benefits of this multi-million pound government initiative, The Trailblazer, which will see dedicated mental health staff offering in-school support to students on a wide range of issues, such as bullying, anxiety and how to deal with problems at home.

“This innovative approach to providing practical support in the very environment that can often be extremely challenging for many young people will not only help more students enjoy their time at school, but also go a long way to removing any stigma still attached to the topic of mental health.

“Getting more young people talking about their mental health will inevitably lead to more young people seeking help, and it’s incredibly exciting that such support will soon be made available to students attending more than half of all schools in Swindon.”