Is there an unanswered need to discuss mental health in our country’s schooling system?

I’d firstly like to apologise for my recent hiatus in terms of blogging-posts – my life has been going at 100mph for the usual sluggish lifestyle I lead whilst home and surrounded by the nothingness of gorgeous Norfolk. However, after decimating my town centre with eager (and slightly desperate) CV’s during the Easter period, I managed to land a considerable amount of interviews lined up ready for me to attend as soon as I left the hustle and bustle of student life during exam period. I was successful in the majority of interviews but eventually decided upon working the sale season at high-street giant Monsoon and once I had finished my three weeks, I was offered a more permanent/extended stay at the store throughout the month of August! The latter, of course, was music to my ears as I need to save every penny that comes my way once I am in my student house come the end of this September, and considering every weekend of last summer was spent standing in a rather chilly field at silly-o-clock in the morning selling copious amounts of junk I owned at carboot sales, I feel more than grateful to be working in a rather fancy store surrounded by pretty clothing. Nonetheless, I’ve been slacking on one of my favourite things to do – BLOG – and now I can indulge my desire to write until my heart is content…

I’ve decided that this week’s post will be about two things I am incredibly passionate about – the education system and attitudes towards mental health in the United Kingdom. Despite the two not displaying obvious signs of relation, I have strong opinions on how if we were to approach the topic of mental health in schools nation-wide, we would and could soon see a very positive change in not only the statistics of young people suffering from the likes of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and depression, but would also reflect the issues of mental health, in all its forms and in all ages of people, in a completely different manner. In simpler terms, if we were to teach young folk about mental health, attitudes towards those living with and/or suffering from the issues it can evoke would change substantially, and for the better.

With nearly 80,000 children and young people in the United Kingdom living with and/or suffering from depression, it seems ludicrous to me that we are not making the relevant changes in our education system to not only help those going through schooling to understand and deal with the effects of mental health, but also to prevent the development of ‘teen-phenomena illnesses’ such as eating disorders, and with websites such as Tumblr promoting ‘thigh-gaps’ and bombarding young people (both female and male) with ‘thinspo’ pictures, it is a very real risk, with very real consequences; the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.

In the same way that sexual health classes are required within upper-schooling to teach young people about the dangers posed by STI’s, aids and teen pregnancy, I believe mental health should be considered as just as crucial – the increasing statistics of young people diagnosed with a variation of an mental health issue (the number of young people aged 15-16 with depression nearly doubled between 1980-2000) is just as much a social-problem as is teen-pregnancy, and child obesity (which is also counter-acted via. Physical Education, a government requirement).

More now than ever the issues of mental health are beginning to be addressed within the United Kingdom – with the likes of Stephen Fry speaking out about years suffering with Bipolar Disorder and going un-diagnosed until reaching the age of 37, ultimately leading to an attempted-suicide after falling further into turmoil, unable to understand the extremity of his emotions. Within the documentary he made following his statement into the press on his struggle with his disorder (*I shall link the documentary for you at the end of this post, in case you are interested), Fry investigated, among other things surrounding Bipolar Disorder, whether or not an awareness of his condition from a younger age may have helped him to deal with its effects before reaching the penultimate state of desperation in his suicide attempt.

It is undoubtedly an interesting topic, and Mr. Stephen Fry went on to explore the notion in the United States of America, where they are currently facing issues of ‘over-diagnosing’ people, especially young children and teens. The awareness of mental disorders may, of course, come with the implications of young people self-diagnosing theirselves or even misunderstanding its seriousness and feigning an illness, just as there is the problem of children and teens (and no doubt, adults too) living up to the label or diagnosis given to them, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of mental health. There will always be implications when teaching a group of persons, at any age, let alone at the delicate phase of puberty, of something as impacting and important as mental health, similarly as sexual education classes are always approached with the upmost caution. However, with that being said, I truly believe the benefits would outweigh the risks in terms of educating young people about the issues surrounding mental health – I believe that in this perspective, knowledge is power, and if young people were to understand and be aware of mental health disorders, we would ultimately see a nationwide movement in support and understanding for those who need it.

“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars.” – Stephen Fry.

Stephen Fry ‘The secret life of the manic depressive.’
Part 1;
Part 2;

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About Amy-Rose

Amy-Rose has now graduated from the University of Leicester.

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4 responses to “Is there an unanswered need to discuss mental health in our country’s schooling system?”

  1. Zoe

    Great to see someone posting about the further need for dissemination about mental health issues Amy-Rose! The stigma associated with mental health is making an extremely serious set of health issues an extra step more difficult to tackle. I agree wholeheartedly with your notion that it should be compulsory at schools in order to move towards a point where diagnosis and treatment for these diseases are just as available as they are for any other medical condition!

  2. David Prestidge

    Great stuff, Amy-Rose. Many people have no idea what a life-changer depression is. Until I had it, I just scoffed and thought that people should “pull themselves together.” Not any more. It’s a physical disease, too – thank goodness the chemical imbalance in the brain can be adjusted through medication.

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