What Mental Health Education Means to You (and Me)
Education is one of the extremely powerful tools in pursuing systemic change within society. It has long been used by the government to effectively educate children on key issues such as sex, alcohol, and drugs, all of which are compulsory programs in the education system, and arguably have had a successful impact.
Earlier this year, the government announced plans to make mental health education compulsory in schools across the country. How and what will be taught is still up for debate and consultation, and the reforms will become statutory in September 2020. The law has passed debates, readings, and reviews by the House of Commons. Thanks to our Headucation campaign that we ran and the resulting petition (which gathered over 100,000 signatures in under four months), we triggered the debate on the subject within Parliament.
I believe this systemic change will have a multitude of positive effects. Education on mental health issues at a younger age will relieve stigma, thus encouraging people to discuss (and feel comfortable discussing) the subject both then and in the future. In terms of stigma reduction, it could have a long-term knock-on effect in the future within society. I believe this will make it easier for people who are suffering to share their problems and seek help.
Many children whose symptoms begin at an early age misunderstand the nature of mental illness. They may not know what is happening to them, assume it’s normal, believe they can’t get better or that it’s just a part of who they are. Educating children will help those suffering realise that they are ill and therefore makes it possible for them to seek help.
Something as simple as informing children of symptoms and telling them that this means they’re not well and that they should seek a doctor will have a huge positive impact on society. It could potentially stop the illness in its early stages of development with treatment and/or stops it manifesting itself and causing further complications in the future (such as untreated depression/anxiety causing drug and alcohol issues later in life).
I believe that there is still a lot of work to do in terms of awareness and stigma reduction. Although, I believe the next logical step of social issues is systemic and societal change, I am glad to see the first of (hopefully) many systemic steps towards a healthier society.
The Headucation campaign was a great success and I am proud to be a part of an organisation that plays a role in making mental health education a reality.
I serve on the youth advisory board and as an ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation. We are a fast growing and influential charity that have more ambitious plans for the future. Stay tuned.