Today, 10th October, is World Mental Health Day and this year the theme is young people and mental health in a changing world. Therefore I thought I would write about mental health education and why I believe it is so important in today’s world.
Currently in the UK there is no legal requirement to teach about mental health in schools. This seems ridiculous when we are encountering a record number of children experiencing difficulties with their mental health. Mental health is such an important topic and something people tend to any away from. We seem to forget that we all have mental health, be it good or ill, much like we all have physical health. There are of course ways we can help our mental health, such as self care, but how are we meant to know this if noone teaches us. This is why mental health education in schools is vital. Prevention is key.
Of course prevention is not always possible. Sometimes we will get mentally ill despite our best efforts but mental health education is key here too. If as a young person we know the signs that something is wrong we may feel able to access help sooner. It is known that early intervention can be key in treating mental illness and can lead to a higher recovery rate so it seems only logical to educate young people on the signs. I know that as a young person I was confused by what was happening to me and felt alone so didn’t confide my problems for a long time. This made everything much harder.
Another reason education surrounding mental health and mental illness is key to help reduce stigma. A lot of stigma comes from lack of understanding and fear. By educating young people we create a generation that is not afraid to talk about mental illness nor scared to seek help in the face of it. We empower our young people to fight stigma and stand up for those facing problems with their mental health.
Of course there are barriers in the way to mental health education. As a former teacher I know how rammed the school curriculum already is but I believe mental health education can be worked in. We make time for physical health so why can we not make time for mental health. Obviously mental health education alone will not solve the entire problem of the rise in young people with mental health problems but it is a start. We of course need more funding for children and adolescent mental health services too, to keep up with the young people that are asking for help. Hopefully we can make a difference if we keep calling for change.