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Most young people think mental health should be discussed in class

The majority of school and college students think mental health should be a subject taught in classrooms to help young people feel more supported.

The findings come from new research by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families which surveyed over 3000 young people at school or further education (FE) college about their views on mental health and mental health education.

The vast majority of respondents (roughly 93%) thought that mental health should be taught in schools, with the most commonly chosen method being through designated lessons.

Across all age groups, depression and anxiety was the most common answer given (~92%) when respondents were asked what mental health topics were most important for teachers to discuss.

Body image, identity, self-harm and eating disorders made up the rest of the top five topics, all of which were chosen by over 80% of the young people surveyed.

“It’s important for children to be able to know what others are going through," said one respondent.

Another student added: “It would encourage more people to speak up about their problems and would help people feel less alone knowing that there are other people going through the same or similar things as them and that there are people/things that can help."

Despite the generally positive sentiment toward teaching about mental health in classrooms, barriers around sharing mental health concerns with school staff remain.

Almost half (48%) of respondents said they would not share their concerns with anyone at their school or college – a figure that increased the younger the children were.

Making it easier for young people to talk about their mental health was one of many topics discussed in a recent meeting between government ministers, health executives and senior figures from leading mental health charities.

The first ever meeting of the Mental Health Education Action Group focused on ways to increase mental health support for young people wherever they are in their educational career, from early years settings to university.

The meeting coincided with a recent confirmation that £79 million of a broader £500 million investment in mental health will go toward improving support for children and young people.

One of the main goals of the investment package is to boost the number of schools with a dedicated mental health support team.

Currently available in 59 schools across the country, the teams provide support for pupils as well as mental health training for school staff.

Another topic of discussion during the meeting was the idea of further integrating mental health and wellbeing education into the school curriculum.

In England, health education, which includes mental health education, is compulsory teaching as part of the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum.

"The return to school offers an opportunity for all schools and colleges to adopt or review their whole-school approach to mental health so that they can be prepared to support their students," states the report.

"In this way they can become mentally healthy schools and best support their students to reach their full potential, ensuring that mental health needs are balanced alongside academic attainment.

"It is also clear from this research that, although there remains a stigma to mental health, this generation of children and young people actively want to learn and talk about mental health."

Read the full report from the Anna Freud Centre here.


Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health


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