Should mental health issues be discussed at school?

The fact it’s 2016 and we still have to talk about how there is such a strong stigma surrounding mental health is really disheartening. However we mustn’t give up hope, we mustn’t stop campaigning to put an end to it.

I think one of the main issues is that it’s just not properly taught in school, I know in my school for instance, that it just wasn’t taught at all. Not directly anyway. There would be people who’d come in with leaflets & encourage us to visit them, but unless we have an incentive to visit then people are missing out. Why would I visit a service for more information if I didn’t think it applied to me or people I’m close to?

We need to address mental health issues in the classroom, perhaps from as soon as they start high school, especially with the mental health issues that can occur as a result of school stresses, bullying, puberty and such. We need to educate what the warning signs are, what we should do, how we can help others, the different services that can support us. We need to teach our children the statistics, no matter how shocking, they need to know the suicide rates, they need to know just how serious an issue it is. They need information on different mental health issues, they don’t need to become experts in the subject, but a basic understanding would still go a long way in helping people. It could just trigger something in someone’s head that they need to seek help, or need to encourage someone else to seek help.

As shocking as it may be to some people, we need to teach people why self harm, and suicide jokes aren’t acceptable. What an impact they can have on people. We need to encourage people to talk about their feelings, and be open and honest. To encourage them to seek help when they aren’t feeling good. We can do that with sicknesses, and injuries, but why can’t we do that for mental health issues?

Why aren’t schools more supportive of those who are suffering from depression or anxiety, and find day to day school life hard? Why isn’t there more options to make the education system work for our children? We shouldn’t make our children fit into a rigid idea of a good student, we should instead mold the education system around each child’s individual needs to ensure that they can receive a decent education, and that they aren’t leaving school with the trauma of an awful school experience.

We need to encourage our primary school children to discuss their feelings, and if they are having a hard time. By hammering it in that it is good to talk about our feelings, to be open and honest, and to seek help at a young age. We can encourage them to keep that up for the rest of their lives, so that when bigger issues happen, such as a family member’s death, they know they have a huge support network they can rely on, instead of furthering themselves into a depressive state due to feeling isolated.

There’s such a stigma that people can only be depressed if really bad things are happening, that people can’t become depressed due to day to day struggles, that someone from a wealthy family, or who is doing good at school can’t be depressed. This needs to stop, we need to stop invalidating people’s feelings. By encouraging people to be open and honest we can catch the warning signs before it’s too late, if we can see someone slipping into a depressive slump we can help them, instead of noticing when they’re at the end of their rope and desperate.

Why can’t schools have meetings with pupils on a semi-regular basis to discuss with them for even a short while how they are doing, what their struggles or worries are? Remind them of different services they can reach out to? That it’s okay to have mental health issues, but that it’s important that we combat it?

By educating our children to be more open, to feel like their feelings are valid, and that their issues aren’t silly, we can encourage this way of thinking through the rest of their lives, and that can make a big difference. By ensuring kids feel safe and like they have someone to talk to we can reduce the rate of child suicides.

So yes, we need to talk about mental health with our children, because the fact people are going undiagnosed for years, or committing suicide, or feeling ashamed, or bullied because of their mental health issue is a disgrace.

Make the effort to allow your family members and friends feel safe and comfortable to talk to you, encourage them to be open and honest. Notice the warning signs, and offer help. Be open and honest about your own feelings, even if it’s scary at first. We shouldn’t be ashamed because we’re having a bad day, or that we had a breakdown over something silly like spilling a drink because everything was just getting too much and that was the last straw.

Let’s talk about mental health. Let’s combat the stigma.

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18 thoughts on “Should mental health issues be discussed at school?

  1. I see The Great Kate reblogged this – I often catch mental health posts through her kind curation, but missed this one. It’s great. I jumped over from your comment on “The Importance of a Diagnosis” on ADDandSoMuchMore, where you left a link. I’ll approve it AND move it into the article itself under “Related Content.” Thank you so much for reaching out.

    We all know that schools are understaffed and that underpaid teachers are already stretched to their limit, so that’s probably the answer to why they don’t “have meetings with pupils on a semi-regular basis to discuss [mental health concerns and] that it’s important that we combat it” – but there are other ways to cover the issues. In addition to assemblies, since kids seldom respond appropriately in large groups of peers, Mental Health Awareness Month would be a great time for each class to tailor assignments to bring up the topic as part of class content: papers in English class, mental health concerns of historical figures or mathematicians, mental health modules covering signs and symptoms in phys. ed. and health classes, etc.

    The pervasive problem in the US is “teaching to the test” — an idea that may have sounded good on paper but is truly lousy in execution. Unless mental health issues are on the damned tests, most schools will worry about taking time to cover the topic, lest they lose funding they desperately need for many things if their test scores were to fall below a national average.

    I am unaware of what’s happening in other countries around the world, but the US educational system has been a hot mess for years, and our kids are dying for change — LITERALLY.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, thank you so much for the lovely comment as well as the link on your site. It is greatly appreciated. In the UK we have a curriculum that teachers are meant to cover, but again it’s more down to ‘We’ll just teach what’s likely to be in the test’, unfortunately, this means that there’s a lot of topics such as mental health issues that don’t get taught.
      Getting kids more involved for mental health week would definitely boost their knowledge, and if it’s done in fun activities then it can make them interested and likely to explore it more. It’s unfortunate that lack of funding is preventing our children from accessing the support and education they need, and I am fully aware that one-on-one meetings with every pupil is unrealistic, but it’d still be a great thing to strive for.
      I think it needs to be taught in both classroom and assembly environments. They should have people come in where children can register their concern and get help, or pointed to appropriate services. Kids need to feel like they can go to teachers and they’ll be able to do that for them if they are too anxious to do so.
      While it’s great that there are so many different online resources about mental health and who to contact, it can be overwhelming and you’d really need to know what you’re looking for (or know that there’s a problem!), so even if schools were to have posters around highlighting some great services or sites to use, then that could work wonders as well. There are lots of small and big changes to be made to our education system to do with mental health, but even the smallest changes can make a big difference, and save people’s lives. Thanks again for the lovely comment & link on your post.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. For an unwilling adult 🙂 you certainly have advanced developmental skills missing in a lot of the so-called adults who seem to be more willing – lol

        I don’t know how pervasive your bullying problem is, but it’s a HUGE problem in the states – which I think makes it more difficult for kids to come forward with their struggles.

        And THEN, unfortunately, there are still effing teachers who stigmatize – refusing to adhere even to accommodations required by LAW, etc. – which indicates that the problem is systemic. Mental Health Awareness training needs to become a requirement for a teaching certificate – and somebody needs to hold some feet to the fire about applying it – all the way up to the legislature.

        Over the years my coaches have told me stories that fill me with rage about what their clients have to deal with to get even the most basic help for their kids. The teacher belittles or actually uses abusive language and the principle ignores or condones, etc. Why would any kid report in an environment like that?

        Perhaps losing funding for every child who suicides might get the establishment’s attention – but it wouldn’t extend a lot of hope to kids who are struggling!

        In any case, the more we bring it to awareness, the better the likelihood for positive change. We have a l-o-n-g way to go.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi, I completely agree with you. The stigma needs to end. Here in the U.S. there is an organization called NAMI. National Alliance on Mental Illness. I recently started to volunteer with them. I’m really excited about participating in a program for high school students, called Ending the Silence. We go to high schools and do a presentation, openly and honestly talking about mental health conditions, suicide, the importance of knowing the warning signs, and the importance of getting help. There’s a long way to go to end the stigma, but I’m glad it’s being talked about so much more. I look forward to your posts! Jenny

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good morning! I appreciated your post very much. When I did my master’s thesis, I used a Marge Piercy book, Woman on the Edge of Time, in which future people honored those who had a mental illness…it was a profound, revolutionary thought for me, and set me thinking. Maybe a good preparation for parenting a beautiful young man with high functioning autism, depression, and OCD tendencies.. Today, I am getting ready to teach my first Family-to-Family class through NAMI (I noted Jennymarie’s comment above–we are on the same wavelength!) Putting eloquently expressed thoughts like those in your blog out there is a great thing–good for you, and thank you.

    Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pam, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I am glad you enjoyed it. Woman on the Edge of Time sounds like quite the read, I’ll be sure to check it out. Wishing you all the best with your family-to-family class!
      Thanks again,
      Emma

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You raise a lot of very good points and asked some excellent questions. People with “emotional needs” are lumped together as if they are all the same, despite a broad spectrum of behaviors, genetics and stress causing depression or other issues. Usually they are put together with all special needs kids, even though they may be academically quite different. The families are strongly encouraged to heavily medicate the kids — they don’t want any acting out at all in schools. They would rather the students be drugged to their eyeballs than have them make waves for the teachers. They don’t care what the diagnosis or prognosis is for these kids. They don’t talk to the kids’ therapists much at all. These kids are more sensitive and caring sometimes, so caring they ache with it. Yet they are shunted to the side, told their worries are wrong, and made to feel like aliens. That only makes being at school harder for them. It’s heartbreaking. Even the good school districts don’t really know how to handle these kids. Yet these kids have the potential to craft new ideas, make great art and write symphonies. How can they do that while heavily drugged?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post, it is greatly appreciated!
      The school I went to (in Scotland) was different in the sense that there just wasn’t that sort of pro-medication agenda, but sadly there wasn’t a pro-therapy agenda either. There just wasn’t that connection between schools, pupils, and mental health services. Which is a shame, because the school years are a really important time for so many people, and the issues they have through school can grow and carry on in to their adult life. I’m not pro-medication, but nor am I strongly against it. I’m more so a supporter of getting the treatment that works for each individual. It’s true, some people are made to take medication when perhaps they would best respond to counselling, and vice versa. I think medication for depression etc can be good in the short term, but these issues are more likely to recur if there’s not proper education or coping strategies in place, which is why I would say it’s important that people receive at least some counselling and education.
      If people were able to spot the warning signs before it was too late, then perhaps the means of treating the problem would be a lot easier, instead these issues often grow and grow until it becomes a desperate bid to find something that works, and quickly, even though it might not necessarily be what’s best for the person.
      If we encourage our children to be more open, and we support them on that, then they will feel respected and though their feelings are valid, they’re more likely to seek help because they trust that we’ll be able to support them. If we shun them, and invalidate their feelings they’re likely to just bottle them up, feel ashamed, and it thus further contributes to the issues they face.
      It’s important that we all play a role in erasing mental health stigma, because it is such a big issue, it will help so many people if it was more widely known and taught.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent post and some great comments too. I agree. I used to be a mental health counselor for young kids (0-6), working quite a bit in preschool programs. Often the teachers’ focus was on school skills, on identifying letters, numbers or colors. I always figured that type of learning would come and the things to really focus on were social skills, feelings identification, and self-esteem, etc – skills that were key to navigating relationships and having a happy life. This type of support is needed (critical) right through the teen years. School is a logical place to teach. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, it’s greatly appreciated. It’s something that really does need to be taught, for years I didn’t even realise I had depression, and I feel like my treatment would be progressing a lot quicker if I had known and sought help sooner. Schools do need to focus on life skills more, such as interviews, social skills etc. I think they just expect children and teenagers to pick it up, which is unfortunate as it’s something a lot of people would perhaps require help with and during those years is the perfect time to do it, because it can remain with them for the rest of their life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. What I noticed was that the children who most needed the support were the ones that were struggling at home for a variety of reasons (overworked stressed parents, unstable environments, parents with health challenges). So suggesting that these skills are the responsibility of the parents isn’t helpful. School is the perfect environment and if everyone is learning about mental health, everyone’s awareness increases and no one is singled out.

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