As children return to school this week a new survey by Barnardo’s reveals that many of them are worried about the start of the new term and the threat of bullying.

The charity launched a hard-hitting television advertising campaign on the themes of anxiety and bullying which highlights the importance of mental health support services for children and young people.

Among those backing the campaign is 15-year-old Casey-Jane Bishop who struggles with severe anxiety but is now facing her fears to give young people like her a voice.

Casey-Jane is one of three young people elected to the Welsh Youth Parliament to represent Barnardo’s Cymru and, like the charity, has called on schools to do more to reduce bullying and promote young people’s mental health by offering them safe spaces where they can talk about their concerns.

A return to school survey of more than 1,000 eight to 15-year-olds carried out for Barnardo’s by YouGov showed that almost three in every 10 children worry about changing schools, class or teachers, and for 11-year-olds who are moving to secondary school this increases to more than half.

More than a third (35%) of children worry that someone they know might be bullied and that they won’t have anyone to talk to. More than half of eight-year-olds said their friends had experienced someone kicking or punching them.

Barnardo’s advert which is screened for the first time today uses the images of hyenas following a girl to school, circling her in the playground and appearing on her phone in her bedroom to convey anxiety.

Casey-Jane has been left suffering anxiety attacks which can strike at any time after years of being physically and mentally bullied, sometimes going home from school bruised and scratched.

“I’d describe anxiety as if my brain has a remote button that controls everything, I never know when it’s going to trigger or how bad it will be,” she said.

“I start shaking really badly, sometimes I start sweating and sometimes my speech becomes slurred. Since I’ve been receiving help I’ve learnt to understand my anxiety more and I can recognise the signs. It’s kind of normal for me now,” she said.

“I was physically bullied from Year 1 or 2 and had to move school. That was difficult because it also meant I had to leave all the children I had grown up with and my new school felt like a desert island. That was when the anxiety really kicked in for the first time.

“I was always on edge and constantly looking around. I didn’t know it was anxiety until I reached crisis point. I was verbally and physically bullied at my second school, pushed around and bruised quite badly. It was a lot to deal with and I suffered from nightmares.

Her mother spoke to the school and after that teachers stepped in to try to prevent further attacks and she was pleased to move up to secondary school in a new area away from the group who had bullied her.

But when her parents split up she found she was once again a target for bullies and it is only now as her peer group have turned their attentions to exams that things have settled down for her.

She has been helped through her darkest times by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) and Barnardo’s Resilient Families project.

“My Barnardo’s worker visited me at home and was a great support. She taught me breathing exercises and how to cope with attacks. She was there to help me with anything and everything and I had so much fun looking forward to the future with her,” said Casey-Jane.

Both Barnardo’s and her CAHMS worker encouraged her to stand for the first Welsh Youth Parliament earlier this year and despite the anxieties of making her first speech she is really enjoying the experience and hopes politicians and others will listen to the parliament.

“People are starting to realise that young people have something to say and know what they are talking about. I want to raise awareness about young people’s mental health. Anxiety is a big thing for them and it can trigger physical symptoms too. Not many people talk about mental health but we need to.

“When I was at my worst I felt singled out and treated differently yet at the same time I felt no one could see me, it was weird. I was frightened and confused. Before I got help from Barnardo’s and CAHMS there were times when I didn’t want to keep going, I wanted to give up.

“There are a lot of other people in that place and it is important young people don’t feel they are on their own. For me the most immediate issues facing young people today are around their mental health and social wellbeing.”

Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “It is so important that we all look out for and support children and young people with their mental health and wellbeing.

“Bullying and mental health issues don’t stop at the school gates. Any form of bullying whether it is mental, physical or through social media can lead to anxiety and fear. In Barnardo’s we provide schools-based counselling, family wellbeing services and individual support to children and young people suffering with these issues. With the right support from a trusted adult, children can recover from difficult experiences and work towards a positive future.”