Should children be given lessons about mental health in schools?

26 Nov 2014


More and more of us each year are being diagnosed with some form of mental illness. Whether this is depression or work related stress, young school children and every day workers alike are experiencing, or know someone managing a mental illness. When we look at mental health statistics we can begin to realise what the issue is facing society today. For instance, according to mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 of us each year is diagnosed with some form of mental illness.


Despite how common mental illnesses are in today’s society, people who have suffered from such an illness have a tendency to hide mental health issues from wider society. A survey recently conducted by Scottish power’s found that almost half of the public would not want people to know that they have some form of mental illness. However, despite the likelihood that one of us, a family member, a friend or a work colleague will be diagnosed with a mental illness, it is still met with negative stigma.  As charity Time to Change point out, mental health “is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear” making it hard for people suffering to find common ground with the rest of society, and more importantly, due to the stigma mental illnesses receive, may be reluctant to ask for help due to how they believe they will be viewed. With the issue of mental illness getting more common, what can be done in order to help those who suffer from it, and also limit the negative stigma that surrounds the issue of mental illness?


Mindful has previously urged secondary schools to teach about mental health in order to develop a greater understanding for mental illnesses and defuse the negativity surrounding the subject. A research report done by Paul Naylor, called "Impact of a mental health teaching programme on adolescents", highlighted the positive impacts teaching school children about mental illness can have. They found that teaching children about mental illness reduced stigma and promoted knowledge and positive attitudes which would be beneficial today where mental illness is becoming more prevalent from young people to people in work. This is important, as the more the public are educated about such matters, the better the understanding can be for people living with a mental illness. 


With issues of mental health on the rise, it can only be beneficial to reduce negative stigma and help change social attitudes towards mental illness and educating children, whilst they are young can help steer this change. After all, a more positive attitude towards people with mental illnesses can benefit all areas of society; there is not an area of society that is not affected by mental illnesses.


By Beccie Ions


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