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With mental health awareness week approaching there has been much talk about how this underappreciated and yet endemic health issue has been affecting our schools here in the UK. It has been reported that Schools are dealing with a mental health crisis, with both primary and secondary school leaders stating a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks in their pupils as well as a rise in depression, self-harm and suicide.
It may also be surprising to learn that mental health is also a factor for children as young as five, however these school sectors are often viewed as less important in comparison to academic outcomes. But with several studies showing that paying attention to student wellbeing improves academic outcomes, is ignoring the issue wise?
Record numbers of young people are reporting suffering from these problems, but schools are struggling to cope with the demand for help. With these figures highlighting the desperate need for action what can schools put into place to begin resolving the issue?
It’s a difficult problem to challenge. No one wants to face it head-on, however action is required now. As a result, the Anna Freud Centre has committed to building an evidence base with their Education for Wellbeing program. They hope that this evidence collection, in partnership with the centre's extensive work with schools across England, will begin to justify the necessity for mental health treatment in UK schools to the UK government.
It was recently announced by the education secretary Damian Hinds, that thousands of children and young people are taking part in trials evaluating different mental health and wellbeing interventions in schools.
Evidently, the government has seen the need for mental health and has made children’s mental health a priority, with the Department for Education investing an additional £2.3bn a year toward mental health support in schools until 2023-24. This means that by 2023-24 there will be support for an extra 345,000 children and young people up to the age of 25. The Department has also introduced a new, compulsory mental health education that is intended to teach children how to look after their mental wellbeing. It is hoped that the education will help children to recognise when their peers are struggling and become more aware of how and when they can ask for help.
It is certainly a start, however the topic will continue to persist at the doors of various Government education authorities, such as the Department for Education, Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners, until a balance is struck between wellbeing and academic achievement.
Mental health is not an extracurricular expense. It will affect the wellbeing of the future generation and the country.
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