Traditional school subjects like English, maths, science and the arts are an important part of a child’s upbringing. But as the Mental Health Foundation Scotland (MHFS) points out, so too is a child’s mental health. The national charity is calling on schools all across the UK to give mental health the attention it deserves. The charity, in fact, believes it should be a key part of the curriculum, on par with literacy and maths – something I strongly agree with.
Members of the MHFS outlined their advocacies in a November meeting with parents and teachers held at the Hill of Banchory School. The MHFS’s advocacy was front and centre of the meeting, which also featured a lengthy discussion on preventative measures for youngsters suffering from mental health issues. The topic, in fact, struck a nerve with one of the mums in attendance – Sarah McCann, whose eight-year-old son has had treatment for his emotional struggles. These struggles can take many forms, including social anxiety, which we covered in ‘How to Be Social Without Letting Anxiety Overtake You’.
Unsurprisingly, Sarah backed the MHFS’s advocacy. If approved, primary and secondary school teachers will be given mental health training so they can help pupils, like Sarah’s son, in dealing with mental health issues.
The MHFS’s call to include mental health in the curriculum is nothing new as last July, the UK government had started exploring the idea of making mental health education compulsory in all schools in England by 2020. The government’s plan is to include lessons on mental health, including building mental resilience and recognising the signs. Other aspects that health education will cover are healthy eating, keeping fit, consent, and LGBT+ issues.
In an article for the Guardian, Katie Argent wrote that she believes that parents should learn to talk at a child’s level, as this can help them to better understand ‘what is wrong’. Most children show early signs of mental health concerns, which then become more pronounced at school. For parents that may find it more difficult, there are directives in place to help such as The Wonder Words campaign from Save the Children – a literacy campaign in the UK that helps families communicate with their children. This builds up “language and communication skills needed to succeed in life”. Just as important, this campaign emphasises the role of family in learning, with parents encouraged to talk to and sing and play with their children.
Mental health in children and young teens is an issue that needs to be addressed at an educational level. As more children are diagnosed with mental health conditions, much more needs to be done to give them the support they need.