Mental Health is one of the leading health problems in the world, with one in four people being affected by a mental health condition at some point in their life, and around 450 million people currently suffering from such conditions.
For many, Mental Health isn’t seen as big an issue as physical health, and it is this taboo that is majorly affecting the successful prevention and treatment of poor mental health.
Young children are the most vulnerable when it comes to Mental Health problems, and it is often during early life when most Mental Health issues start to occur. Over 75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday, while 50% of mental health problems in adult life take root before the age of 15.
In an average class of 30 young people, three will have a mental health problem.
The classroom environment is supposed to be a safe-haven from the outside world, where students see teachers as a friendly face they can trust.
The evidence suggests that when students feel a sense of belonging, have good relationships with their teachers and feel listened to when they raise concerns, they are more likely to have positive mental health.
Teachers are the key to ensuring young children can manage their mental health problems, and moreover, understand why they feel the way they do.
Without the correct education about Mental Health, pupils may not be aware their mental health is deteriorating and, as so often is the case, may even feel ashamed when seeking help.
If both teachers and students have more open discussions about Mental Health, issues will be easier to identify, which will, in turn, help to build student’s understanding of the subject.
Preventing Mental Health problems at the source, or at least managing them in a way that young children can understand and talk about them without feeling embarrassed, should be a major priority for the education sector.
The government is beginning to take control of this situation: having recently announced that there will be compulsory Mental Health education across the UK for both primary and secondary schools, starting in Autumn 2020.
It's a good start.
But more still needs to be done. There needs to be more support for teachers tackling these issues, and children need to be encouraged to talk about how they feel on a regular basis.
There is no silver bullet, but we need to end the stigma around Mental Health and ensure that young children feel comfortable talking about their problems. If we can do that, we will be able to safeguard our younger generation for the battle against Mental Health.