Today's World Mental Health Day brings to light numerous news stories on the state of our young people’s mental health and reveals how much more needs to be done to combat the issue.
In a clear sign of national demand for support with mental health, the Every Mind Matters page of the NHS website crashed as people rushed to view the advert narrated by the Dukes and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex following it's launch earlier this week. The platform includes a health quiz and personalised “mind plans” and will eventually incorporate advice for parents on how to support their children.
There are so many shocking stats that highlight the challenges facing today’s generation of young people. Particularly concerning is the fact that they are shown to be affected disproportionately by mental health. According to the government, over half of problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. An additional concern for schools is that nearly half of teachers are struggling with their own mental health and as such it’s crucial that mental health support in schools is extended beyond just the students.
It’s clear there’s a real role for schools to play to help address this. Tom Madders, campaign director at Young Minds believes that, whilst schools shouldn’t be expected to replace specialist mental health services, they can play a crucial role in promoting good mental health and intervening early when there are problems.
When they are faced with so many other pressures and constraints, this can be a challenge. Schools need support from outside and it’s time for businesses, communities and government to join forces and tackle the issue head on.
The government is attempting to make inroads to address the issue. In July, a £9.3 million scheme was announced by the DfE to provide every school and college with training through workshops alongside mental health specialists. Last summer, then prime minister, Theresa May, stated that more than 100,000 teenagers a year would be given mental health training, to help them cope with the pressure of exams and build up their self-esteem. Whilst it’s a good start, time will tell as to the depth of commitment to the issue.
Alongside this new government policy, many schools are already acting in this area. Magna Carta School in Middlesex has created a wellbeing zone and a designated head of mental wellbeing for the whole school. It has also developed an app called ‘My TeenMind’ that covers body image, eating disorders, depression, puberty and sexual health, which aims to offer 24-hour support and specific advice on where students can get help in the school and in their community.
Examples like this shouldn’t be exceptional, but unfortunately for many schools, educational attainment is put ahead of wellbeing and, with schools’ budgets being cut, support services and pastoral roles can often be the first to go.
Organisations such as EY and the Royal Mail have taken the lead in the UK by taking an active interest in staff mental health and promoting mental health awareness in the workplace, through training staff members in mental health first aid. However, there’s a distinct gap for businesses to support schools in this area. It’s mutually beneficial too. If schools were given the support and funding to enable them to prioritise wellbeing in the classroom, young people who enter the workforce are more likely to be resilient and better prepared to encounter any instance of mental ill-health that may arise.
From working with a community network of businesses and volunteers, to offering confidence and resilience workshops, mindfulness classes and even how to handle stress or anxiety, wellbeing needs to be at the core of schools offering and having a mental health strategy in place could make a real difference. With three out of four people in the UK suffering from depression and the manifestation of mental health often beginning at school, ensuring effective support is in place at this early stage is vital to nurturing young people to become strong and resilient adults, and, in turn, part of the workforce.
To mark today’s importance at Hopscotch, we are making efforts to support staff mental wellbeing with employee-led initiatives including encouraged speed walks, team lunch in the trendy Flat Iron Square and suggestions around mindfulness apps. What are you doing to support your mental health?