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What are social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH)?

Social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs are a type of special educational needs in which children/young people have severe difficulties in managing their emotions and behaviour. They often show inappropriate responses and feelings to situations.

This means that they have trouble in building and maintaining relationships with peers and adults; they can also struggle to engage with learning and to cope in mainstream education. Children with SEMH will often feel anxious, scared and misunderstood.

Typical characteristics of children with SEMH can include:-

  • Disruptive, antisocial and uncooperative behaviour

  • Temper tantrums

  • Frustration, anger and verbal and physical threats / aggression

  • Withdrawn and depressed attitudes

  • Anxiety and self-harm

  • Stealing

  • Truancy

  • Vandalism

  • Drug abuse

  • Setting fires

Recent figures estimate that around 150,000 children in mainstream and special schools are suffering from SEMH.

SEMH does not have to be a lifelong condition. With appropriate support children and young people can move forward and live successful lives.

Some of the support that is available is listed under 'Related services'.

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