Our son took his own life after suffering from paralysing ‘school phobia’


A DEVASTATED family have opened up about how their son took his own life after suffering from “acute school phobia”.

Callum Woodcroft, 13, died by suicide in March last year after suffering extreme anxiety about going to class.

Callum Woodcroft, 13, died by suicide after suffering from 'acute school phobia'


Callum Woodcroft, 13, died by suicide after suffering from ‘acute school phobia’Credit: nn journal

The “lovely, kind and caring” boy felt worried about his reading and writing abilities, according to a report by the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership.

His parents said the fears began in Year 1 after he had to go to hospital after an incident at school, and got progressively worse.

Dad Martin told NN Journal: “It was extreme school phobia. 

“We can all say, ‘Oh I’m scared, I’ve got my driving test next week’, ‘Oh I’m scared I’ve got a meeting and have to stand up in front of people and talk’, and we sort of understand what anxiety feels like when you say that. 

“Times it by a million just to go to school. That’s what he was feeling.”

School phobia, known medically as scolionophobia or emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA), is a rare condition that causes an overwhelming fear of school.

It can be a sign of other anxiety disorders and is viewed by some doctors as similar to other phobias like arachnophobia — a fear of spiders.

The phobia is thought to affect between two and five per cent of children, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Kids aged five to six or 10 to 11 are most likely to experience it, and it has been linked to separation anxiety.

Callum’s problems began at a young age and continued through his time at primary and secondary school.

The report said he had “displayed physical and verbal aggression to himself and others” including “self-harm and suicidal ideation” for a number of years.

He had previously been excluded and was in the process of moving schools at the time of his tragic death.

Martin and Mandy, Callum’s mum, got support for their son from his GP, both schools and outside organisations, the report said.

It added that the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Partnership “should seek assurance from partners ensuring that the child’s voice is captured in cases of acute emotional distress”.

“[These include] those self-harming and expressing suicide ideation, and the child is at the centre of all planning,” it added.

What are the warning signs of school phobia?

Symptoms of the condition can be physical and psychological, including:

  1. Diarrhoea
  2. Headaches
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Stomachaches
  5. Tremors or uncontrollable shaking
  6. Clinginess, such as being afraid to leave caregivers
  7. Fear of the dark
  8. Nightmares
  9. Preoccupation with thoughts about their safety or the safety of others
  10. Tantrums


EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why UK Times launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:


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