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We need to talk…

Is mental health an issue?

How much do our young people know and understand about mental health and mental health issues? Is it something that’s discussed openly or is it taboo?

We reached out to a number of teachers across the south east of England, to gauge how mental health is perceived amongst children.

Q: How aware of mental health are the majority of the children with whom you interact?

A: The feedback was mixed. A few of the teachers felt that the children with whom they had regular contact were unaware of mental health all together. Conversely, others felt that the children with whom they worked were very aware of mental health.

It was largely agreed that the level of awareness was often case by case, depending on the life experience of the individual child. Some children were more exposed to mental health issues due to noticing differences in family members or classroom peers, or, possibly, even having their own differences highlighted by others. Unfortunately, this often takes the shape of bullying.

Early learning: Could educating children at a younger age – about mental health, certain mental illnesses, and the challenges children may face – actually help to prevent bullying?

Q: At what age should we start talking to children about mental health?

A: There was a general consensus, amongst teaching staff, that the right thing to do here, specifically in schools, is to:

• open up conversations with individuals, as and when it was felt to be required.

• encourage mental health to be a normalised conversation with children as young as four or five.

• make the lessons more in depth as the children get older and are able to understand more.

• share more information about specific illnesses or different examples of how mental health can sometimes display itself in others around them.

Mindfulness is now growing as a discussion point with children; enabling them to understand mental health at a surface level, at least. It also promotes good practices such as talking about their emotions, and encourages them to reflect on how their actions might impact on others’ feelings.

Mental health is now a topic in a number of PSHE (Personal, Social, Health & Economic) lessons/schemes across schools in the south east of England. This gives children a fantastic opportunity to learn about mental health and to gain an insight into various mental illnesses.

There is a clear drive in the education world to open up this conversation, and we are 100% behind it. It’s totally healthy and positive to discuss these issues, get them in the open and remove any stigma. Let’s keep talking!

If you have any thoughts to share on this subject, please do let us know.


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