Children must learn about mental health in schools so we can end stigma, says Manchester expert

By Neil Robertson

The stigma surrounding mental health must end after a new charity urged schools to teach the subject to children, according to a leading Greater Manchester expert.

Last week, it was revealed that MindFull, who have recently launched a counselling service for 11-17-year-olds, have published a report asking UK secondary schools to include mental health lessons in their timetable.

Gill Green, Director of Nursing at Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, backed the idea, pointing out that one in ten children in Britain suffer from a diagnosable mental health issue.

“We want the subject of mental health brought to people’s attention and welcome any ideas that would work towards ending the stigma surrounding mental health,” she said.

“Allowing time to discuss the subject would be a good way to help young people understand and identify mental health issues they may come across.”

Ms Green highlighted the success of the recent documentary series Don’t Call Me Crazy, filmed at the Trust’s McGuiness Unit in Prestwich, as evidence that progress is being made.

“This demonstrates the desire people have to discuss mental health issues and break the taboo that past generations have had of not discussing the issue,” she said.

Ms Green’s words echoed the views of MindFull founder Emma-Jane Cross, who told BBC News that poor mental health among young people was ‘one of the last great medical taboos in the UK today’.

In her charity’s report, Ms Cross claimed that awareness of mental health must be integrated into every aspect of young people’s development.

Among the charities to comment on the recent news were Anxiety UK, the UK’s leading charity on anxiety phobias and conditions.

Educating young people on all aspects of mental health is a vital step forward in improving society’s awareness of the subject, according to Nicky Lidbitter, the charity’s Chief Executive.

“Many of the prejudices and perceptions of mental health are borne out of ignorance and a lack of awareness, introducing it in the school environment could help address and reduce that,” he said.

“Introducing mental health to the curriculum is an interesting proposal and one that could help young people speak out and seek support rather than continue to deal with their problems in silence.”

Fellow mental health charity Young Minds, who recently opened a new £10million unit for young people with mental health problems in Greater Manchester, also released a statement last week.

Lucie Russell, Director of Campaigns and Policy at Young Minds, said: “We hope MindFull will work with us to get the vital importance of children and young people’s metal health up the political agenda both locally and nationally.”

“Children and young people are growing up in a toxic climate where they never switch off, where cyberbullying, consumerism, sexting and the pressure to have the perfect body bombard them daily.

“We know from our extensive work with young people that the support they so desperately need when they aren’t coping is grossly lacking but we also know from services that they under huge funding pressures and are overwhelmed with demand.”

Picture courtesy of Jugbo, with thanks.

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