By Hannah McDonagh
CAMPAIGNERS are calling for mental health awareness to be taught in schools after studies showed that one in 10 children and young people aged five to 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.
The Shaw Mind Foundation has set up an e-petition for the public to sign to lobby the government to include lessons on mental health in the school curriculum.
In a joint statement, founders of the charity Adam Shaw and Dr Lauren Callaghan said: “Mental health problems are happening right now in our schools and to our children.
“Mental health education will help an already stretched curriculum become more efficient and it will also greatly support and take the pressure off teachers, mental health social workers, the NHS and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services as well as having huge advantages for the UK economy.
“It is clear the government are still focusing on the sticking plaster technique to deal with the growing epidemic of mental health problems.
“We must go back to the very beginning and the root by implementing compulsory mental health education into all schools in the UK.
“The Shaw Mind Foundation will fund this crusade until this objective is achieved.
“Positive mental health is a life skill and mental health education lasts a lifetime. It is the most important issue of our time so let’s lead the world in ensuring the UK’s next generation understand the importance of mental health and how it will allow all of our society to prosper.
“If we act now, we can save future generations and ensure prosperity for our children, their children and all society as a whole.”
5 FACTS ABOUT CHILD MENTAL HEALTH – source Young Minds
Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder.
Between 1 in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm
Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14
More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time.
Amanda Wassell from St Bede’s Primary School in Rotherham, gave her verdict on whether schools should teach mental health in schools.
However, Mrs Wassell also said: “The amount of time with in the curriculum would be something we would have to consider to be able to fit everything in but it could be easily incorporated within the PSHE type work that we already do.”
The Department of Education said in a statement: “We want mental health to be an everyday concern in all institutions. Schools should decide how to teach pupils about mental health developing their own curriculum to reflect the needs of their pupils.
“Good mental health and well-being is a priority for the Department.
“We want all our children to fulfil their potential and we want to tackle the burning injustice of mental health problems, so that future generations can develop into resilient, confident adults, equipped to go as far as their talents will take them.
“We need to make mental illness an everyday concern for all of us and in every one of our institutions – schools have an important role to play.
“We want schools to be able to decide themselves how to teach their pupils about mental health- developing their own local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, drawing on resources and evidence provided by expert organisations.”
“I think it’s important that children get emotional education. My stepson is seven but it has always been a priority that we talk openly about our feelings to help him express them better. And I think there should be a bigger emphasis on emotional education at primary age so that by the time children get to secondary school they can be educated in more detail about mental health so that there isn’t a stigma attached to it. He’s a bit of a class clown, but he is very open about expressing himself in any situation. He’s also very good with understanding that no means no and telling people when they are making him uncomfortable and asking them to stop” – Kerrie Body, London, 26
“I think it’s really important to be educated about mental health issues from a young age because it helps to remove the stigma and normalises it. On a personal note I’ve suffered from mental health problems since I was 11, but to be told that at that age made me feel like a massive freak because I didn’t know anything about it. As a mum, if my daughter ever suffered similar problems I want her to not to even feel ashamed. When it affects so many people and is so common it should definitely be taught in schools from a young age – not just in Psychology as a GCSE option.” – Leah Nicholson, Bradford, 25.