Let’s put mental health education on the school curriculum
Young people’s mental health problems are on the rise – it’s time we took this as seriously as their physical education.
‘We recognise that a child’s physical health education is important enough to have attention devoted to it weekly, on a national scale. Is it not time we took the same approach to their mental health?’ Photograph: Janine Wiedel Photolibrary/Alamy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, suicide is the third highest cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 24, and the second-highest for 25- to 34-year-olds. In Great Britain, the charity MentalHealth.org.uk reports that one in 10 children between the ages of one and 15 have a mental health disorder. And while the UK’s teen suicide rate is low in comparison, it does raise the question – are we doing enough to support the mental health of the younger generation?
Physical education has a long history. Ratified by the Education Reform Act in the 1980s and included in the government’s national curriculum, no one can argue that we shouldn’t be looking after the physical health of our children. So why are we not taking mental health as seriously?
We do have some support for children’s mental health in the UK. There are several charities who work to raise awareness of, and deal with, children’s mental health issues. And we have the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs). This is run at a local level, operated county by county. One Year On – the first report from the National Advisory Council for Children’s Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing – was commissioned in 2010 to see how Camhs was performing, and it acknowledges that the situation is less than ideal. You need only a cursory glance at the internet to see stories of students waiting months for appointments in some areas, and others being refused if they are 17 or 18. While still in full-time education they occupy, as far as mental health goes, a grey area.
The launch last Friday of MindFull, a new mental health charity promising immediate support for pupils, is most welcome. It comes on the back of a worrying report that states that a third of students polled had, by the age of 16, considered suicide. This reinforces the point that Camhs is inadequate in its current form to cope with the growing number of mental health concerns in the student population. I am hopeful that this high-profile charity will raise awareness. It is definitely a step in the right direction, although cutting off at 17 will mean final-year A-level students again face being left out.
Mental health for young people in this country is poorly provided for. Some schools deal with students’ issues through counselling services. Others have pastoral sessions to reflect on problems. Charities and the government at local level are increasing their support. But it’s still patchy. We recognise that a child’s physical health education is important enough to have attention devoted to it weekly, on a national scale. Is it not time we took the same approach to their mental health? •
Credit: Guardian newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/08/young-people-mental-health-school-curriculum