FAMILIES, teachers and employers have been urged to put the wellbeing of children and students ahead of grades this exam season.

Samaritans, a national charity providing emotional support for anyone in distress, said that by keeping results in perspective, young people are more likely to do themselves justice than if they face intolerable levels of pressure and stress.

Their appeal comes as students countrywide prepare to sit GCSE, A level, AS and university exams. It also echoes the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week, between May 14 and 20, which is focusing on coping with stress.

Samaritans volunteer Kate Todrick, who is director of the Bury branch, said: "Learning to manage your emotions — build resilience, develop communication skills and positive ways to cope with difficulties — is as important as learning to read and write.

"Naturally, every parent, teacher and employer puts a value on good grades, and students put themselves under pressure to achieve.

"We would urge anyone involved in exams and supporting young people with their studies, to ensure students look after their emotional health.

"That way they are likely to cope better with the stress of exams, and achieve better too. "Whatever stage you’re at in life, exams or not everything."

Samaritans has a programme of teaching resources which covers exam stress and coping methods, called Developing Emotional Awareness and Listening (DEAL).

Its Bury branch also offers talks for young people in schools.

The charity is also urging firms to sign up to its new Wellbeing In The City resources as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Samaritans offers a free phone line service for those who are feeling overwhelmed due to work or exam pressure, or are concerned about someone else.

To speak with someone for free, call 116 123. To arrange a face-to-face conversation, email jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org.