Mental health education is still not part of the UK curriculum despite consistently high rates of child and adolescent mental health issues. 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 – 16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every class. There has been a big increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm. Over the last ten years this figure has increased by 68%.
In the UK school system, we teach our children how to count, how to write, how to follow rules, how to work in communities. We repeatedly tell them to eat healthily, to exercise more and to look after their teeth. We tell them how to take care of their body physically. We educate them on what’s bad and what’s good about lifestyle and food. What we don’t teach them is how to look after their mental health. We don’t teach them what to do when they’re feeling anxious, or when they’re feeling sad. We don’t educate them on mental health problems or suicide, despite children as young as 5 years old seeking to end their life. We don’t talk about feeling suicidal or the warning signs that our mental health is decreasing. Why?
More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood. Less than half were treated appropriately at the time. Surely this means that mental health education should be considered compulsory both in primary and secondary schools.
There’s a reason why we have charities like Young Minds, an organisation set up to support children and young people experiencing mental health problems, and that reason is that there is a prevalence among children and young people. Keeping quiet about something isn’t going to protect people from experiencing mental illness – in fact, it’s likely to make things much worse.
By educating young people about mental health in schools, we can increase awareness and hope to encourage open and honest discussion among young people. In fact, having some early conversations might enable the next generation to naturally place mental and physical illness on a par.
Please sign the following petition to help get mental health education on the UK curriculum: