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Understanding the impact of lack of ‘mental health education’ in schools

Post by on Monday, April 11, 2022

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Schools, teachers, and educators can be the first line of defence against mental illnesses and against practices that harm students’ mental health and yet there is an acute lack of mental health education in our schools and education system overall. Today’s dynamic world requires too much from growing children, teenagers, and even young adults, and as a consequence the impact on their mental health is immeasurable. The way we handle mental health in schools and institutions is less than ideal at best and completely harmful for the child at worst. Lack of mental health education in schools should not have been a feature of 21st-century education and yet we find ourselves in this position where accessing mental health is a task not just for students but also for full-fledged adults.

If we go out and ask the first person, we meet on the street how well they were prepared by their school to understand mental health and how well equipped they are to deal with mental health challenges, we will be met with mock or jest, if not anger. This is simply because schools do not place importance on mental health education. This is despite teen suicide and mental illness rates being on an alarming rise and suicide being the second leading cause of death for people between 15 and 24 years old. More than half of the people who deal with lifetime mental illness start to struggle before even reaching the age of 14. Studies indicate that most of these people do not even get treatment until 10 years after the onset. Research has indicated that teaching them about mental health earlier made search people more likely to reach out for help earlier. This would not only improve the quality of their life but would also help them in gaining the appropriate aid that is necessary for them to battle these mental health issues.

Even in educational institutes that try to prioritize their student’s mental health and do their best to include mental health education in schools the curriculum related to the field is often inadequate and the teachers that impart this education are often not well trained to deal with such topics. In theory, it leads to inadequate mental health education but in practicality, it perpetuates stigma around mental health as well as stigma around seeking help for mental health issues. Moreover, students who already suffer from mental health illnesses, as well as mental disorders of some type, are much more prone to face the brand of lack of mental health awareness and education that ideally must be provided in schools. Many educators and teachers are ill-equipped to deal with such students and end up causing more harm than providing help. Studies have shown that over 70% of adults with mental illnesses have symptoms that emerged during their childhood and adolescence and as such, it becomes very clear that today’s teenagers and students are in desperate need of help regarding not only identification of mental health issues, but also concerning accessibility that is devoid of any stigma.

 

The primary goal of mental health education is to raise awareness about mental health. Awareness includes providing students information about negative as well as positive mental health, along with teaching them how to recognize these mental health issues in themselves and people around them so that early intervention of mental health issues can be done to counter and mitigate their effects. Teaching students about this in a proper way that is devoid of any shame, embarrassment, or stereotypes can encourage them to see mental health as something devoid of embarrassment, and hence, the stigma that deeply surrounds mental health can be slowly eliminated.

 

Unfortunately, the lack of this very important mental health education in schools has caused the stigma around mental health to take root in society and as a consequence accessing mental health services has become increasingly difficult for people. This is especially true in the case of people who come from or belong to marginalized societies and groups and who are generally on the lower end of the socio-economic strata.  Likewise, students who are more likely to struggle in school with their academics and general sociability are much more likely to be ostracised by their peers, friends as well as teachers. Similarly, students who are classified as “at-risk students” and who are at a higher chance of not completing even their high school education are much more in need of mental health education.

Many students who are labelled as delinquents or students who are victims of abuse are much more likely to grow up with mental health issues. Studies have shown that smart students have much fewer earnings in their adulthood as compared to their peers who have not suffered any abuse and come from a regular background. It goes on to say that mental health illness not only affects a person’s mental health but its implications can be far-reaching and can impact the future of children in ways that regular people might not even consider. So, not only does the lack of education about mental health issues harm everyday students but it also harms those students who are already facing one or the other disadvantage, and goes on to aid social inequality.

 

Lack of mental health resources and education in schools and educational institutes plays a very big role in students being unkind and mean towards other students and regular individuals who face mental health issues and challenges. Not only this, but it also causes students who are suffering from mental health illnesses to shy away from seeking out resources that can help in improving their mental health and ultimately causes them to suffer for years with their mental health issues. It also causes them to suffer from the accompanying shame and embarrassment which is derived from the stigma and bullying that goes on in schools and society in general due to mental illnesses.

It is also important to note that many schools do not have a budget for mental health education or mental health education instructors and proper staff that can help in imparting this education to students as well as to other teachers and staff members of the school. Schools knowing or unknowingly take part in such practices which cause harm to the mental health of students. Admin students do not get to know that these mental health issues are much more common than they think and when they do not get to know that seeking help for these mental health issues is not something they need to be ashamed of then their mental health suffers even more And the cycle of the stigma that is associated with mental health illnesses goes on and on.

 

Traditionally many schools and educators have been a catalyst in harming the student’s mental health. The cost and remedy of the issue cannot be the same. Hence it becomes very important for schools to make sure that their teachers in educators are kind toward their students and understand the impact that mental health issues might have on the student’s future. To counter this it is incredibly important that teachers be equipped and trained properly to handle instances of mental health determination in their students. Teachers might not be able to identify mental health issues among their students but at least they can be sensitive and mindful of these. Moreover, schools need an adequate start that includes school counsellors, psychologists untrained teachers who understand the importance of mental health education and try to impart this education in the best possible way to the students. Another important factor that is important ensuring that mental health education in schools is proper is that the mental health instructors and teachers need to be kind and understanding of the students.

 

Even though many schools and educational institutes have tried to implement mental health education in their curriculum and as a part of mainstream teaching the effect of this mental health training and education will not be fully seen in the society and on the minds of developing students until and unless education about mental health issues and mental health illnesses becomes mainstream and popularised. Likewise removing the stigma around mental health issues cannot be done unless and until mental health education becomes a regular feature in educational institutes. The ability of students to access mental health services that can help with mental health issues should not be restricted by schools, nor by their circumstances and background. Just can only be achieved when mental health services and mental health education become accessible to every student which means compulsory education. The challenges of today’s world are complex. We are living in such times where historical and once-in-a-lifetime event happiness becomes a matter of once in a few week events. As such the need for rapid and immediate inclusion of mental health education in schools becomes incredibly clear.

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Unfortunately, the lack of this very important mental health education in schools has caused the stigma around mental health to take root in society and as a consequence accessing mental health services has become increasingly difficult for people.

 

Traditionally many schools and educators have been a catalyst in harming the student’s mental health. The cost and remedy of the issue cannot be the same. Hence it becomes very important for schools to make sure that their teachers in educators are kind toward their students and understand the impact that mental health issues might have on the student’s future.

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