Why is Mental Health Education in Schools is So Important?

By Joe McLean

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Some facts about mental illness

Millions of people globally are affected by mental illness. In America, an estimated one in five adults experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five children in the U.S. currently have, or at some stage have had, a debilitating mental illness. Fifty percent of mental illness begins by the age of 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Depression is on the rise

Mental illness, particularly depression, is predicted to become one of the major health burdens in the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Over 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

Opportunities for mental health education in schools

The breaking down of stigma and misconceptions about mental illness has to start in schools. School is where friendships begin. It is where teens hone their sense of self-worth.

Anxiety symptoms in children are often minimized or ignored

In the school environment, children face many challenges, and some are better at managing these than others. Many children can feel anxious, ranging from mild symptoms to more severe forms, such as panic attacks. When these symptoms are ignored, they can lead to depression, lack of performance and increased risk of substance abuse.

The teen suicide epidemic

The Netflix show “13 reasons why” is currently in its second season. Teenager Hannah Baker is a victim of gossip, bullying, rape and body shaming. She commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining why.

The influence of social media on mental health

Current research indicates a possible connection between increased social media use and mental health although it’s still unclear exactly how they are connected. What is clear is that young adults are the most active users.

The importance of early intervention

Family, friends, teachers, and individuals themselves often notice small changes in thinking and behavior before a mental illness appears in full-blown form. Learning about early warning signs, and taking action can help.

Mental health education should be part of the curriculum

We need to be working towards a school environment where students are able to recognize when they’re dealing with mental health issues, and feel they can ask for help.

Related Article: We Need a Focus on Mental Health, Not Just Violence in Schools

Progress is being made

A growing number of schools are beginning to realize the importance of mental health education. They are working on creating an environment where mental health issues are recognized, and support is offered.

Conclusion

A culture shift needs to start with the young — the only way they’re going to understand more about mental health and stop stigmatizing is if they receive the necessary education.

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