What will children learn?
Like any subject, we want compulsory mental health education to be taught at an age appropriate level, depending on which key stage the pupils are in.
Mental health education is currently only being taught within the non-compulsory PSHE framework at secondary school, and all too often it is overlooked or dropped altogether. This means that we’re not equipping our children with the knowledge and skills to understand something that affects three children (between the ages of 5 – 16) in every UK classroom.
Compulsory mental health education in all schools will enable pupils of any age to develop the skill set, knowledge, understanding, language and ability to seek help, if required, for themselves, their friends and family.
Children will be able to identify when help is required, what types of help are available, and how to access it.
Having a platform to enable pupils to talk openly about mental health issues will help towards eliminating stigma and facilitate discussion on specific issues affecting children and young people’s mental health. For example, bullying and social media pressures often lead to high numbers of self-harm and suicide.
Good mental health education lasts a lifetime.
Lessons should include (where appropriate for the age group):
Mental health, mental illness and emotional well-being
- What is mental health and mental illness?
- Our emotions and psychological and social well-being
- Understanding how the mind works
- How mental health affects people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour
- How common is mental illness?
Types of mental illnesses
- Understanding all types of mental health problems
- Understanding common types of mental health problems in children and young people, in adults and in different groups in society (the elderly, homeless people, people with learning disabilities, physically disabled people, male mental health, LGBT+ etc.)
- Symptoms, behaviours and feelings associated with different mental health illnesses
- Physical effects of mental illness (self-harm, suicide)
Stigma, discrimination and common misconceptions of mental illness
- Mental illness in the past (treatments, asylums, discrimination)
- Discriminatory use of language to describe mental illness or types of mental illness today
- Misconceptions of different mental illnesses
- Understand stigma
- Why mental health needs to be discussed openly
Causes of mental illness
- Factors associated with mental health: biological, genes, trauma, abuse, neglect, family history of mental health problems, social isolation, role of social media, bullying, discrimination, bereavement, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, substance misuse, sexual or domestic abuse etc.
Effects of mental illness on society
- Individual, carers/parents, children of those suffering from mental health, relationships, economy, unemployment, crime.
Mental health diagnosis, treatment, support and recovery
- Differences in diagnosis of physical vs mental illness (intangibility etc.)
- Role of the GP in diagnosis and what they will assess (symptoms, length and duration of symptoms, impact on life). Tools used by GPs in assessment (questionnaires about mood, thoughts and behaviours)
- Role of mental health specialists (e.g. psychiatrist) and specialist mental health hospitals and clinics
- Mental health maintenance, self-care and lifestyle changes (signs to look out for in own mental health and that of others around them, looking after physical health, having a supportive network of friends, how to maintain positive mental health etc.)
- Treatments (CBT, medication, self-help books, music and art therapy, complementary and alternative therapy)
- Support (CAMHS, social care, crisis teams, residential care, hospitals)
- Recovery and managing symptoms
- What to do in a crisis
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