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Why compulsory mental health education is necessary

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It is commonly known that issues with mental health first appears in childhood. It is possible for children as young as 4 years to be suffering from psychological problems. However, they are unable to verbalise what is going on. In these instances, having an appropriately trained adult that can recognise unusual or different behaviours would be extremely helpful.

All too often do these children stay silent and grow up to develop more serious psychological and mental issues. Needless to say, the cost to society can be considerable, not least because of time taken off school and work, and the need for expensive health services.

In my younger years, I was lucky enough to attend Summerhill School where the emphasis was on emotional education as well as academic education. The headmaster always used to say that children will learn when they are ready to, and they are not always ready to when they have emotional issues. In other words, in order to learn effectively and to get good academic results, a child needs to be emotionally stable.

Unfortunately, our government insists on having a very controlled environment for our education system, where ticks in boxes are more important than the child’s emotional wellbeing. So, this raises the question: what can be done in schools in the current environment to promote emotional wellbeing?

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, recently put a bill forward to parliament to make PHSE compulsory in schools. Unfortunately, but probably not surprisingly, the current government voted it down. But let’s suppose PHSE, or some kind of mental health education, did become compulsory. There are a number of ways we could help children become emotionally resilient. One such possibility could be to offer basic cognitive therapy through stories and role play, but there are many options available if we were just given the opportunity in schools.

I have been working as a part-time REBT/CBT therapist for the last 20 years and many of my clients have commented, ‘If only I had learnt this when I was in school.’ It is my belief that if we introduced mental health education into schools, many of our problems would be solved or reduced. We might even have a happier society overall.

Please sign The Shaw Mind Foundation government petition to get mental health education a compulsory subject within the UK.

Ron Meldrum

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