Is Education About Mental Health Important?
Can education about mental health help the younger generation build mental resilience for the future?
In UK schools, children must begin learning about sex and relationship education from the age-eleven onwards. It usually focuses on the anatomy of male and female bodies, and on sex, however, the government is now providing guidance for schools to also teach about positive relationships and how to recognise abusive behaviour. Although this is a great step, arguably there is a topic missing in schools that is vital for the growth of healthy individuals; mental health education.
Personally, I only began to become aware of my mental health after starting college at the age of seventeen, and since then it has been a constant learning process of realising just how important our mental health is to live our fullest and best life. None of this new knowledge was taught to me at school, however it is found that your childhood experiences shape the adult you become. Surely we should equip our children with the skills to build healthy coping mechanisms at an early age, so they do not have to learn it all as an adult where the foundations of trauma may already be set, making it much more difficult to cope with mental distress?
According to Children’s society 2008, 10% of children (5-16 years old) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, yet 70% of children and adolescences who experience mental health problems do not receive sufficient intervention in their early life. Our mental health services are already underfunded, so perhaps we should also educate our children and teach them the skills to become aware of when they may be suffering from a mental illness so more problems can be picked up early enough for them to not cause as big of an impact as they grow older.
Anxiety symptoms in children tend to be minimised or ignored. Children in schools tend to be told they need to try harder and try join in with activities, even though with anxiety this can prove extremely difficult. When our children are unaware of why they are struggling more than their peers, they can end up depressed; have a lack of performance and even risk substance abuse to cope with their situation. Through education, they will feel more aware of themselves and why they find certain activities so difficult, and their peers will be more empathetic rather than exclusionary due to lack of understanding.
This will naturally not lead to a disappearance of mental illnesses; however, it may help kids to be more aware of the signs and symptoms to look out for. If we were to combine this with services available throughout all age groups and training adults to look out for signs as well, we may find more positive results in preventing destructive mental health problems, rather than waiting for children to grow up into adults when it is harder to deal with the issue alongside the stresses of adult life.